Just how big of a problem is sexual assault when it comes to rideshare services?
A recent investigation by CNN reveals that 103 Uber drivers have been accused of sexual assault or abuse of passengers over the course of the last four years, with at least 31 drivers having been convicted of charges that range from forcible touching to rape, and dozens more criminal and civil cases pending.
CNN’s investigation entailed reviewing police reports, federal court records, and county court databases across 20 major cities across the U.S., and they found similar results when investigating Lyft. Over the past four years, there have been 18 Lyft drivers accused of sexual assault or abuse, with four drivers having been convicted, their report concluded.
The results are startling, CNN pointed out, partly because many of the victims report having been inebriated at the time of their assault, yet ridesharing services like Uber often advertise themselves as being safe way to get home for those who have been drinking.
“You are pretty much hitchhiking with strangers,” one woman told CNN. The anonymous Miami resident is a plaintiff in a proposed class action lawsuit against Uber, and says that she was sexually assaulted by a driver after using the ridesharing service to get a safe ride home from a local bar. The driver, who later admitted to being “wrong for what he did” and pleaded not guilty, allegedly carried her into her apartment, where he assaulted her on the bed. “How many people is it going to take to get assaulted before something is done?”
Uber did not provide comment for CNN’s piece, but an Uber spokesperson told CNET via email, “These stories are horrific and our hearts go out to the victims. We worked with CNN to understand their findings and determined that Uber did 2.4 billion trips in the US in that same period. But even one incident on our platform is too many which is why safety is Uber’s top priority for 2018 and beyond.”
Uber announced last month that they will begin running yearly background checks on drivers. April also happened to be Sexual Assault Awareness Month and, in honor of the occasion, the company teamed up with domestic violence and sexual assault awareness non-profit NO MORE to create and share a video on sexual assault prevention. Uber, a company that fired 20 employees last year after an expansive sexual harassment investigation, is also planning to host 50 community forums across the country for advocates, leaders, drivers, and riders to discuss sexual violence, according to CNN.
During an interview on an unrelated story, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told CNN that cracking down on sexual assault is a “new priority for us,” one that he “expects to remain a priority for the foreseeable future.”
A spokesperson for Lyft told CNET via email, “Since the beginning, we have worked hard to design policies and features that protect our community. When it comes to allegations of inappropriate behavior, we take that very seriously and work closely with law enforcement when appropriate. While Lyft has grown — we now give more than 1 million rides each day — this commitment to safety has not changed.”
Both Uber and Lyft use a third party company to conduct their background checks — a startup called Checkr, which uses a number of national, state, and local databases to check for convictions dating back seven years, CNET reports. While drivers in New York are fingerprinted — the same as cab drivers are required to do — such standards have not been adopted nationwide, CNN reports.
This comes on the heels of a national scandal. Last month, Frederick Amfo, an Uber driver accused of raping a passenger in early April, fled the country after he was mistakenly allowed to keep his passport after posting bail, The Miami Herald reports.
(Photo: Businessman texting on his smart phone while driving a car. By RUNSTUDIO, via Getty Images)