The ride share business is taking over the world. Technology has the upper hand by using smart phone apps to connect people for rides, dates, and food these days. The unique position of ride sharing has had an ephemeral run of worry free days. More states are cracking down on application companies such as Uber and Lyft. But, even with proper regulations- how are we safe while riding in a stranger’s car? Uber claims to do extensive background searches on all those who want to be drivers. Yet, there are staggering reports of violence and terrifying events.
Uber had an insurance policy covering up to $1 million in liability but that was only active when the driver had a passenger in the vehicle. For example, a 6 year old child was struck and killed by an Uber driver. Not only did the child die but the mother is in critical condition and needs intensive medical treatment which was denied coverage by Uber’s insurance agency. The ride sharing company claims that since there were no Uber patrons in the vehicle then Uber is not liable-this was the gap in the insurance regulation. Furthermore, the driver reportedly had a reckless driving conviction that Uber never came across during their background check. The laws in California have changed since this tragic accident last year thanks to California Governor Jerry Brown tightening the insurance grip on all ride sharing programs. Florida is looking in the same direction. Current law in Florida allows Uber to function with a vague gap in their insurance plan. This gap does not cover people injured by Uber drivers unless they are patrons in the vehicle. This means that Uber is not liable if a driver injures a pedestrian or another person while the driver is waiting to pick-up a rider since the driver is technically not on the clock until the patron is in the vehicle. Uber has lobbied extensively against the Bankers and Insurance committee board who are passing the bill (SB-1298).
The other risk is the cell phone itself. Texting and driving is illegal in 45 states yet ride sharing apps require drivers to be on their cell phones. So what is a driver to do about responding to the pings and rings their Uber app makes while they are driving? The race is on as soon as someone requests pickup, the Uber drivers in that area must reply quickly. Most Uber drivers keep their phone on a stand against the windshield. Couldn’t this be a major distraction? That is the question other law makers are asking.
Background checks are completed by a third party company, Hirease. This is a general background check and as some reports suggest is not nearly as extensive as it could be. Taxi and Limo companies undergo deep background checks including finger prints and credit checks. There are reports of rape, assault, and kidnapping from around the globe because the checks are not adequate for this type of service. In June of 2014 an Uber driver was arrested for assaulting a patron, turns out the driver had multiple felonies.
Uber may be the new trend but as for now sticking with the tried and true cab rides might be the most safe route to take.