Those who’ve used ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft know they can be faster and more convenient and sometimes offer friendlier drivers than taxi services. Recent cases of assault in California, however, have concerned riders and policymakers, resulting in calls for stricter state regulation.
Current Regulations for Transportation Network Companies
The California Public Utilities Commission, which has legal jurisdiction over ride-sharing services, defines companies that use mobile applications to connect those seeking rides with drivers using their personal vehicles as Transportation Network Companies (TNCs). Riders and drivers also use mobile applications to rate each other, creating an online community and safety network, the companies claim, through these communications. For riders that need more than ratings to feel safe using these services, the CPUC requires TNCs to conduct criminal background checks on drivers, vehicle inspections, and that the companies carry commercial liability insurance policies worth at least $1 million.
Assaults Bring Safety of Ride-Sharing Services into Question
Last week, two incidents of assault on riders by Uber drivers made news headlines, bringing into question the safety of ride-sharing services. After verbally and physically assaulting a passenger he picked up in San Francisco’s Castro District on November 24, 28-year-old Daveea Whitmore was charged with misdemeanor battery of a transit passenger on Tuesday, June 3. Uber claimed that Whitmore, who was previously convicted and is on probation for battery and a narcotics offense, passed its background check. On the same day, the Los Angeles Times reported that 32-year-old Uber driver Frederick Dencer was arrested in L.A. county on suspicion of kidnapping for the purpose of sexual assault after driving an intoxicated woman to a hotel instead of her home for the purpose of sexual assault. Due to insufficient evidence, prosecutors did not file charges against Dencer.
Los Angeles City Council Members Call for Stricter State Regulation
Claiming that the existing laws regulating ride-sharing companies are too lax—jeopardizing the safety of riders and placing taxi companies at an unfair disadvantage—Los Angeles City Council members called for stricter state regulation of the companies this week. Specifically, Council members Paul Koretz and Gil Cedillo, as well as many of the city’s taxi drivers, championed for the passage of AB 612, which “would require ride-sharing operators to carry the same 24-7 commercial insurance coverage as regular taxis,” reported the Los Angeles Times.
In response, Uber issued a statement claiming that its $1 million in commercial insurance coverage for its vehicles and requirement that drivers pass “an industry-leading background check that includes county, federal, and multi-state checks going back seven years,” were comparable to the measures taxi operators must make to ensure the safety of their customers, reported CBS News.
The laws regulating taxi companies, however, are no more fail proof than those by which the ride-sharing companies must abide: so far this spring, there have been two cases, one of attempted rape and one of sexual assault, involving cab drivers in Santa Cruz. Instead of working against each other—though the motives for that are clear—taxi and ride-sharing companies should be examining their processes for screening and monitoring drivers.
What do you think? Which would you trust more: a taxi or a ride-sharing service?
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