Safety Concerns Trump the Competitive Costs of Uber and Lyft
The taxicab industry has led the charge against ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft. While taxi companies clearly have an agenda for opposing this transportation alternative, the popularity of these alternatives to cabs and limousines merits a consideration of the process used to screen their drivers. While Lyft and Uber differ regarding the details of their operations, both companies offer the convenience of cell phone booking and affordable cost. Government officials in some states have begun evaluating whether these services pose a significant threat to public safety. Critics contend that the massive number of people permitted to drive for Uber or Lyft makes the risk of incomplete background investigations high, which allows unsafe candidates to slip through the cracks. In this blog, our Cobb County car accident lawyers examine recent concerns about the screening process being applied to the tens of thousands of drivers of ridesharing services.
Uber and Lyft Contend Background Checks Make Their Services Safe
Uber contends that its system for performing criminal background checks and driving records is reliable because it relies on social security verification. The company uses a third party service to conduct criminal record checks over the prior seven year period. The background check also reportedly includes databases that flag terrorists and the National Sex Offender Registry.
Lyft indicates that the average time involved in the screening process to work for their service is ten to fourteen days. The company website indicates that they perform a criminal background check, driving record check, and verification of past employment. The company also publicizes a mentoring program that gives applicants the opportunity to ride along with experienced Lyft drivers before accepting fares.
Accelerated Screening Process Catches Attention of Government Officials
While legislators in several states have begun to voice concerns, the California legislature has taken the lead in scrutinizing the screening process used by ridesharing services. Cab companies in the state have forwarded to legislators records of approved drivers who have a record of violent offenses or sex crimes. The Los Angeles Times reports that drivers for Uber have records that include murder, DUI, child exploitation, identity theft, manslaughter, and other offenses. The report also indicated that lawmakers evaluating the safety of these services have emphasized the hurried nature of the screening process as a factor in allowing violent felons to slip through the cracks. For example, an Uber driver convicted of second-degree murder allegedly changed the spelling of his name. The driver had provided over a thousand rides before his violent felony conviction was discovered.
Legislators are now seeking to compel ridesharing services to use fingerprinting in the screening process because the scope of records reviewed would be more extensive. If background checks use fingerprints, records in the Federal Bureau of Investigation database would be accessible.
Concerns Involving Insurance Coverage
A concern closely related to safety issues involves the potential gaps in insurance coverage when riders are injured. Unlike traditional taxicab companies, some popular ridesharing services attempt to limit their liability by contending they only facilitate fares. These ridesharing services argue they are not responsible for their drivers' unsafe driving or wrongdoing. Drivers relying on their personal coverage usually do not have sufficient limits for serious accidents. These insurance issues can leave riders in a precarious financial position when they suffer severe injuries because of the unreasonably careless or intentional misconduct of drivers.
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