Written by Carlton A. Lewis
Rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft have transformed the transportation industry. Lyft operates in the U.S. and Canada, while Uber is a multi-national company operating in over 70 countries with a collective workforce of nearly 6 million people. With such a massive workforce, issues are occurring, leading to the community asking, “Are rideshare services safe?” In recent years, the safety of their service to passengers have been called into question by workers committing serious criminal acts such as sexual assaults and drunk driving. And rightly so. I do not believe rideshare apps have done a sufficient job in keeping our communities safe. For rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft that have not demonstrated their ability to be profitable, this is a major issue. And for communities across America, these serious safety challenges are a real cause for concern.
Sexual assaults are a real issue for rideshare apps. Numerous complaints allege that rideshare companies such as Uber and Lyft do not adequately screen new drivers when performing background checks. Also, once drivers are hired, there is minimal monitoring for inappropriate conduct. A CNN investigate report revealed that in a recent three-year span, over 100 Uber drivers have been accused of sexually assaulting their passengers. A notable incident occurred in 2017, where a Los Angeles Uber driver picked up an intoxicated woman. Instead of fulfilling his duties as a driver, he took advantage of the impaired woman and drove her to a nearby motel where he sexually assaulted her. Upon the driver being tracked down and subsequently arrested, it was revealed that he had an arrest record involving five prior felony convictions. Uber has since reinstated and revamped its background check policy, blaming company budget restrictions and lax enforcement as to how these drivers with a checkered criminal record were hired.
Each year, 1.35 million people are killed on roadways around the world. According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report, the U.S. annual cost of alcohol-related crashes totals more than $44 billion. When ride share drivers are impaired, the company can be held liable in court for injuries inflicted on others. In 2017, in a one-year span – from August 2014 to August 2015, Uber faced a total fine of $1.1 million dollars stemming from over 150 drunk driving complaints. As alcohol-related automotive incidents is still one of the primary factors for vehicle fatalities, rideshare apps should focus on this area when looking for ways to improve safety for their passengers.
Ways To Improve
Rideshare apps seem to have only shown reactionary safety measures instead of preventive. These measures have only occurred after hundreds of incidences have been reported. Uber revamped and reinstated its background check policy on its drivers after numerous sexual assault complaints, however, law officials are calling for additional safety changes by Uber. Officials are recommending fingerprint-based criminal background checks, live recordings of rides, and an option where you can request the gender of your driver – since most sexual assaults on women involve male drivers as the offenders.
There are a few ways I believe rideshare apps can improve drunk driving safety measures. I recommend ignition interlock devices for drivers previously suspended for drunk driving. An ignition interlock device is a breath test device connected to a vehicle’s ignition. Some states require drunk drivers to install these devices into their vehicles at the owner’s expense. The NHTSA supports the spread of mandating ignition interlock devices as a deterrent for drunk drivers getting behind the wheel of their vehicles while under the influence at no additional cost to the companies. Another idea rideshare apps can use to deter their drivers getting behind the wheel of their vehicles while under the influence is by promoting and offering them discounted rides. It is common knowledge that one of the cited reasons of utilizing a rideshare app as a passenger under the influence of alcohol is safety. By Uber and Lyft promoting and offering discounts to their own drivers to utilize the company service to safely travel, then this can be seen as a preventive measure steering drivers away from thoughts of getting behind the wheel of their own vehicles, which may lead to them never logging onto the rideshare app and working.
Rideshare apps face unique challenges as it has transformed the transportation industry. This has also brought about issues that they are still having a difficult time grappling with. Unless these companies further invest and make additional, real commitments to the safety of their customers, complaints, personal injury claims, lawsuits, and fines will continue to be brought against them. And for rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft that have not demonstrated their ability to be profitable, this can turn out to be a fatal blow to the success of their companies. No matter how innovative and convenient a service is, customer safety should always be a focal point.