Are Ridesharing Services Becoming Safer?

By Michael Klazema on 12/17/2019

Ridesharing services Uber and Lyft have come under fire for not doing enough to prevent rapes and sexual assaults at the hands of their drivers. Critics of the companies have suggested more in-depth background checks and stronger policies for disciplinary and investigative action in response to impropriety. While the companies have taken steps to respond to these criticisms—last year, for instance, Uber implemented an ongoing criminal monitoring policy for its drivers—questions remain regarding whether the services are becoming any safer. 

In early December of 2019, Uber released its first-ever safety report. While the report didn’t focus solely on issues of sexual misconduct, Uber did disclose statistics about the number of sexual assault reports that it received in 2017 and 2018. In 2018, the company received 3,045 sexual assault reports, including 235 rapes and 280 attempted rapes. Other sexual assaults were categorized as “nonconsensual kissing,” “nonconsensual touching,” and “nonconsensual touching of a sexual body part.” Not all those reports came from passengers: 42 percent of the sexual assault reports came from drivers, who reported passengers as the perpetrators. 

Other safety issues included murders committed in Uber rides (nine in 2018; 10 in 2017) and deaths due to vehicle accidents involving Uber rides (58 in 2018; 49 in 2017). 

Following the release of the report, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told the Washington Post that safety was his priority. He pointed out that Uber is the first company in the ridesharing industry to embrace transparency regarding safety issues. He also said that Uber had “looked into” options for expanding its background checks such as the adoption of continuous background checks. 

Khosrowshahi underlined what has long been Uber’s stance on fingerprint background checks, which many critics have pressed the company to adopt: “we don’t believe that fingerprinting would change things materially one way or the other.” He highlighted other potential strategies that Uber could use in the future to combat sexual assaults and violence in rides, including a pilot program for dash cam videos and an option for riders or drivers to record audio of their rides. 

As Uber faces controversy regarding its safety report, Lyft fights its own battle against sexual misconduct. Approximately 20 women recently filed a lawsuit against Lyft alleging that the company does not do enough to vet its drivers and ensure the safety of female passengers. Lyft’s background checks include countydatabase, and federal criminal record checkssex offender registry searches; and Social Security Number traces. The company runs background checks on all new drivers and one a year post-hire for drivers who remain active with the service. 

We will keep you up-to-date on all future developments regarding ridesharing and rideshare background checks, including breaking vetting news from Uber and Lyft.

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