How Safe Is Your Rideshare Driver?
Rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft are a cheap and convenient way to get around town, but how safe are they—really? One of the first things we are taught, as children, is to never get into a stranger’s car. But, isn’t that, essentially, what you’re doing when you get a ride from an Uber or Lyft driver?
Well, isn’t it just like taking a taxi?
The answer to the last question is, “not really.”
Taxi companies around the country require prospective drivers to be fingerprinted. Fingerprints allow for a level-two background check through the FBI, which will examine the potential driver’s statewide and nationwide criminal record. Lyft and Uber, on the other hand, use an online background-checking company called Checkr. The problem is that only about 55% of court records are accessible through online databases, and they can only be searched back seven years. Fingerprint checks go back to when the subject turned 18, and can’t be confused by name changes or changes of residence. Clearly, level two background checks using fingerprints would be the safer way for rideshare companies to protect passengers.
Currently, Massachusetts is the only state that requires state-run background checks for rideshare drivers—all other states leave the vetting process solely up to the rideshare company.
Passengers Have Been Assaulted
An article on CNN’s website claims that Lyft and Uber have approved thousands of drivers who should have been disqualified due to their criminal pasts. Among those who slipped through Uber’s background check process was an ex-convict accused of trying to smuggle rocket launchers into the Middle East, shooting a juvenile in the leg, attacking his wife with a crowbar, and trying to hire a hitman. Three months after he began driving for Uber, he followed one of his passengers into her home and sexually assaulted her.
Other unsavory characters Uber approved as drivers include a man convicted of attempted murder, who now stands accused raping a passenger; a previously undocumented immigrant who is on trial for sexually assaulting three passengers; and a murderer out on parole. Another CNN investigation found that, in a four-year time period ending in 2018, at least 103 Uber drivers in America have been accused of sexual assault.
Considering these discoveries, passenger safety should be of utmost concern to rideshare companies. But is it?
Pushback from the Rideshare Industry
While Uber and Lyft both declare that passenger safety is their number one concern, they (particularly Uber) have taken great measures to thwart tighter regulations on their industry. Uber has launched a nationwide lobbying campaign to prevent more stringent background checks.
In 2016, as Wyoming State Representative Dan Zwonitzer got ready to introduce a bill regulating rideshare companies, an Uber lobbyist emailed him, urging him to change the proposed legislation.
“The draft includes a government-run background check. We need to change it back to the model language,” the lobbyist wrote, referring to the bill’s requirement for fingerprint checks. As Zwonitzer told CNN, Uber “drew a line in the sand” about background-check requirements.
In the end, it all comes down to money. Rideshare companies make money by getting drivers out on the road, and they want to do that as cheaply and quickly as possible. If you’ve been assaulted in any way by a rideshare driver, you need to contact a Gillette rideshare accident attorney who’s not afraid to stand up for you and fight. The legal team at Steven Titus & Associates, P.C., has built its reputation on getting justice for Wyoming residents. For a free consultation, call (307) 257-7800.
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