Uber’s business plan was intended to disrupt the taxi industry. Instead of using an expensive, heavily regulated taxi, why not just get a ride from someone who’s going that way anyway? Uber could keep costs down by simply arranging rides from willing drivers, who would get a small fee. That fee would be far less than a taxi fare because the driver didn’t have to go through all the trouble and regulation of obtaining a taxi medallion.
The problem is that those taxi regulations were meant, at least in part, to promote passenger safety. They require things like background checks of drivers, so that bad actors don’t have access to vulnerable people. Taxis are monitored and tracked, keeping them on-track but also safe.
How common are sexual assaults during Uber rides?
Uber just released a study of criminal activity occurring during its rides in the United States. The large majority involved Uber drivers targeting passengers, but passengers and third parties were also involved on occasion.
The study found that 3,045 sexual assaults had taken place during 2018. Nine people were murdered, and 58 were killed in crashes. According to Uber, those numbers account for just 0.0002% of the 1.3 billion rides it arranged in the U.S. last year.
Due to lack of data, it’s difficult to say if the numbers are high compared to other forms of transportation like taxis. The New York Police Department maintains a registry of sex offenses occurring on transit systems, and it counted only 533 in 2018. It’s hard to say how comparable are the number of rides versus the number of assaults.
Definitions are also problematic. The NYPD tracks rapes and other sex crimes in its number. For Uber, sexual assault is defined as anything from unwanted kissing of a nonsexual body part to rape. The largest group of assaults involved the nonconsensual touching of a sexual body part.
Uber, the largest ride-hailing company, says that the numbers are a reflection of the society we live in. Still, it has taken steps to improve security. A new automated technology, for example, checks drivers’ driving and criminal records more regularly. The company has deactivated 40,000 U.S. drivers since 2018 after they failed these automated checks.
Uber emphasizes that 99.9% of the trips it arranges in the U.S. are safe. (The study only covered the U.S.) However, ride-hailing companies are facing numerous lawsuits from people around the world after alleged rapes, sexual harassment and other misconduct by drivers.
Sexual assault experts praised Uber for releasing the information and hoped the numbers would improve Uber’s efforts toward safety.
If you have been a victim of a crime by a ride-hailing driver, you should contact a personal injury attorney.