Millions of people are using ridesharing mobile applications, such as Lyft and Uber, daily. When users enter their on-demand vehicle, they anticipate that their driver has gone through heavy background checks and has passed safety standards in order to qualify as an employee of the service.
Unfortunately, a recent trend has suggested that some drivers are slipping through the loopholes in this screening process. In fact, there are reports of individuals with suspended licences being hired as drivers, and even drivers with murder convictions being allowed to chauffeur innocent, unsuspecting passengers to their destinations.
Are these reports true? And if so, how is this happening? Let's take a look at some of the facts.
Background Checks Used by Uber and Lyft
Typically, background checks performed by ridesharing companies vary dependent on the state in question. For example, in the state of Florida, the background check process exists in two phases known as Level 1 background checks.
Phase One: The Company's Background Check
First, the company performs a multi-state criminal and driving background check as well as a check of the national sex offender website. The initial background check specifies:
- No major moving violations, such as DUIs or reckless driving.
- No more than 3 minor moving violations in the past 3 years, such as speeding tickets or failure to obey traffic laws.
- A clean criminal record that does not include convictions for prior offenses specified by local law.
- A minimum of 1 year U.S. licensing history (if under 23 years old, must have at least 3 years licensing history).
Individuals who pass the initial round of background checks are then passed along to the state.
Phase Two: The State's Background Check
Since ridesharing companies are legally permitted to look back only 7 years, the state runs its own lengthier background check that includes a lifetime look-back for violent felonies, serious driving offenses, and sex abuse convictions.
What Would Level 2 Checks Require?
In April of 2017, taxi companies and some elected officials proposed Level 2 background checks for potential Uber and Lyft drivers. This would include required fingerprinting to further search crime databases. However, this motion was denied.
This may come as startling to some, considering that companies like Uber and Lyft do not meet face to face with candidates during the application. Therefore, how can they prove if the candidate is applying with correct information?
Driving with a Criminal Record
A quick Google search will reveal a plethora of cases claiming rideshare drivers were unsafe or unqualified. Complaints of dangerous ridesharing drivers stretch back over 5 years, since companies such as Uber and Lyft first began to rise in popularity.
A Controversial Start
The first major scandal came in 2015, when the San Francisco District Attorney's office filed a complaint claiming that 25 drivers with criminal records were allowed to drive for Uber in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
According to the complaint, a convicted murderer spent 26 years in prison before being released on parole in 2008 and joining Uber in 2014. The man was responsible for giving 1,168 rides before being discovered in 2015. Uber's background check failed to catch this man's past because he had given a fake name when he applied to the service.
The same complaint filed by the San Francisco District Attorney's office cited a case of a driver who had been convicted of "committing lewd or lascivious acts against a child under 14" as not raising any red flags during his background check. The man in question proceeded to give "5,697 rides to Uber passengers, including unaccompanied children."
Another driver was cited at Los Angeles International Airport for driving with an expired license. Moreover, many of the drivers listed in the complaint were also convicted of DUIs in southern California.
Recently Spotted in the Courts
News broke in January that the state of Colorado fined Lyft for more than $224,000 to settle claims that the company allowed a driver with a disqualifying felony record to transport passengers for more than a year. This comes after reports of Lyft driver, Danny Gillette, driving for Lyft with felony convictions of robbery and prison escape from 2016 to 2017.
In November, Colorado regulators issued an $8.9 million fine against Uber for allowing individuals with serious motor vehicle offenses to work as drivers.
Are These Drivers in Florida?
Last summer, an Uber driver in Tampa, FL was charged with strong-arm robbery, a second-degree felony, after assaulting one of his two teenage passengers and stealing the young man's gold chain. The driver in question, 28-year-old Alexander Troy, had previously been cited for careless driving after causing a car accident in Tampa, received a speeding ticket for going 53 mph in a 25 mph zone, and almost had his license suspended twice - once for failing to complete a mandatory defensive driving course and once for non-payment of a speeding ticket fine.
According to Uber, despite having a record of haphazard driving, Troy was clear to drive for the company. This is because his situation had fallen under Uber's background check loophole. Regardless of having two minor moving violations within five months, he still passed the background check's requirements of no more than three minor violations in three years. In fact, even a pending suspension would not disqualify an individual from driving for Uber in Florida.
Is Your Uber or Lyft Driver Dangerous?
As with every situation, I always advise to take caution before placing your safety in the hands of a third-party, let alone a complete stranger. Truthfully, there is no way to prove that every driver with Uber or Lyft is 100% safe. Conversely, there is also no evidence that all rideshare drivers are dangerous.
Next time you order an on-demand car service, make sure that you feel comfortable before entering the vehicle and confirm that your driver is the same individual pictured on the app.
If you have been involved in an accident as a result of a careless Uber or Lyft driver, contact Weinstein Legal. Our experienced team will fight for the compensation you deserve.