How do you feel about taking an Uber or Lyft after Uber released its report yesterday revealing 3,000 sexual assaults last year?
Some are now questioning the safety of using a ride share service and they want to know more about the guidelines for becoming a rideshare driver.
"You need to know who’s driving you,” says Melissa McGehee, the General Manager for Yellow Cab Company.
When it comes to taxis and limousines, those services are regulated by the City of Houston and require drivers to have an FBI criminal background check in addition to several checks the companies run themselves and those conducted by the city.
“The taxi industry has been around for decades and decades and you have not seen huge news stories like this,” says McGehee.
Uber’s Safety Report reveals how the rideshare company had 3,000 sexual assaults last year, 58 fatal wrecks, and 9 fatal physical assaults. Rideshare companies are not regulated by the City of Houston but rather by the state and rideshare drivers do not have to undergo FBI fingerprinting and an FBI background check.
"It’s really not safe in my opinion. There's not enough screening,” says McGehee.
"We have a vigorous background check process," insists Uber.
An Uber spokesperson says the company has a third party run motor vehicle screening, a criminal background check on potential drivers, and there’s an ongoing notification system in place to detect new offenses.
According to Uber, 40,000 drivers have been removed from the company as a result.
By the way, the 3,000 sexual assaults have been nearly equally against drivers and passengers alike.
“Most cases (of passengers being attacked) are when they’re intoxicated,” says Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Sex Crimes Investigator Melissa Barajas, who has actually had several cases involving sex assaults against rideshare passengers and drivers.
She suggests making sure you are as alert as possible when taking rideshare, and verify the license plate, vehicle and driver’s picture before you get in the vehicle. She also suggests actively taking precautions to protect yourself.
"They should make sure the child safety lock is off. It's usually on the door panel of the back seat. They can share their location with family and friends,” says Deputy Barajas.
Uber says 99.9 percent of rides have no safety incidents and says the FBI database is incomplete. The rideshare company has also installed a 911 button in its app. If a rider presses that button, the 911 dispatcher will know your location, vehicle info, and license plate number. Uber also says next year it will roll out a hotline to offer crisis support to sexual assault survivors.