Everyday Americans all over the country use rideshare companies like Uber or Lyft to get from point A to point B. Maybe you or someone you love is one of those many Americans. We pull out our smart phone and access the app and put in our information. The car arrives with someone we normally don’t know unless we use Uber on a regular basis. We just get in the car assuming that the driver of the car is safe to be with and off we go. But how safe are we really? According to a CNN report rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft have hired thousands of people who should have been disqualified because of criminal records.
More than 200,000 people failed Ubers background check in the year 2017 alone. The company claims that the vetting process and customer safety is something that they take serious and are constantly trying to improve. How serious do they take my safety and yours? Let’s find out. Each time the government has tried to add layers and more requirements to the screening process Uber and Lyft have fought them. In fact CNN found a massive lobbying effort that was led by Uber and successful in fighting off additional background check requirements for the drivers of rideshare companies. Requirements that may include but are not limited to fingerprint scans or government screening. For a company that takes our safety serious they sure do a lot of fighting against measures that would make the passenger safer.
Uber has been a major influence in reshaping the language of many state laws that hold rideshare companies accountable. Instead of answering to most of the states that they operate within Uber has the authority to conduct its own background checks with little or no oversight. The company has been especially resistant to requirements that would force the company to check fingerprints. 31 of the 43 states that have laws concerning driver background checks match Ubers screening process recommendation almost word for word. According to CNN Uber directly influenced the writing of the law in 25 of these states.
One former Uber employee and in-house lobbyist told CNN, “Uber has essentially regulated itself.” The same employee added that most states just inserted Uber’s language into their own laws.
CNN discovered one example of this being true in the state of Wyoming. The state rep of Wyoming Dan Zwonitzer was prepared to introduce a bill in 2016 when a lobbyist from Uber emailed him. Lobbyist Erin Taylor wrote, “The draft includes a government-run background check. We need to change it back to the model language.” This email was in protest to a part of the bill that would require fingerprint checks. Later in this same email Taylor asked if he had any idea why the state kept straying from the model language.
In 2017 Uber got what it wanted as the state of Wyoming made the newly written bill state law. Discussions went back and forth, but this company that takes our safety seriously drew its line in the sand when it came to fingerprint checking.
Out of the people who work for Uber more than 100 of them have been accused of sexually abusing and assaulting their passengers since 2014. Uber told CNN that they are updating their policy to rerun background checks annually and investing in technology to identify new criminal offenses. These may be steps in the right direction in the eyes of some, but to me personally, they are just trying to silence their critics who keep shining the spotlight on them.
Do these updates make you or myself any safer with Uber? The critics of ride share companies share my opinion when they say that it’s not enough. I am in agreement with these critics when I say that there needs to be more done such as in person interviews, government screening and fingerprints, and even special licenses. Most taxi and limo drivers are required by their state law to get a special license before they are allowed to work for their companies.
Uber and Lyft have been discovered to not even do their background checks by themselves. Instead they use a third party company called Checkr. How does Checkr make decisions in regards to the backgrounds of an Uber or Lyft driver? They use an individuals name and social security number to gather their information. It checks a national sex offenders database as well as other databases used to track terrorist.
CNN reported that Uber’s own employees state that their company is more concerned about getting their employees out on the street than they are in whether or not their employee can pass the background check. When I look back at the 100 who have been accused of some form of sexual assault since 2014 this is very easy for me to believe. In my opinion the actions that Uber has taken to prevent further measures that would better insure our safety as their customers just demonstrates that they are more interested in having a large work force then they are in keeping us safe. The reason they oppose the fingerprint requirement is because the fingerprint could take weeks for it to be determined on whether or not their applicant can be a driver for them.
Toward the start of this article I asked the question, how safe are we really? The sad answer to that question is you and your loved ones may be safer walking than you are when you step inside the car with that Uber or Lyft driver. They might just be the modern day Jack the ripper.