Rideshare Risks: Are Uber and Lyft More Dangerous Than Taxis?
December 20th, 2018
Rideshare services like Uber and Lyft have been the subject of a lot of negative publicity, from disputes over the way drivers are compensated to concerns about screening and safety for passengers and drivers alike.
Earlier this year, CNN reported 103 accusations of either passenger abuse or sexual assault by Uber drivers. In one case, the police investigation into a passenger’s complaint led to evidence that the Uber driver had assaulted several women and teenagers across a period of at least five years. Another driver, who has been charged with kidnapping and wire fraud, processed a charge of more than $1,000 to the victim’s credit card after allegedly fondling her and then leaving her on the side of the road. These types of reports are alarming for travelers who rely on rideshare to get to where they are going. But, are these headlines something you should truly be alarmed about?
Is it Safer to Take an Uber or Lyft vs a Taxi?
From an insurance coverage perspective, Uber provides more auto insurance coverage than taxicabs typically provide. The same is true for Lyft. However, this is irrelevant if you cannot trust the driver you are riding with not to attack you.
A headline announcing more than 100 sexual assaults by Uber drivers is enough to give anyone pause. But, that figure in isolation doesn’t say much about the relative safety of Uber, Lyft, and others compared with other modes of transportation—in particular, taxi cabs.
According to Uber, the company has about 750,000 drivers in the U.S. That’s about three times the number of licensed taxi drivers across the country. But, those taxi drivers are licensed by different governmental entities, and work through different companies. So, there is no comparable data readily available to determine whether Uber and Lyft are more dangerous than traditional cab service.
In 2015, the Wall Street Journal reported a rise in rape reports by New Your City cabdrivers with there being 15 reported that year. There are 13,000 cabs licensed in the City of New York with over 50,000 drivers in the greater New York area according to the New York Taxi & Limousine Service. While it is not safe to assume New York directly represents taxis across the entire United States, a rough comparison of New York taxi sexual assault claims in 2015 to recent Uber assault claims suggests that a driver sexual assault claim arises against 1 out of every 3333.33 New York cab drivers whereas assault claims against Uber drivers arise 1 out of every 7281 Uber drivers.
A few years ago, The Cato Institute analyzed the relative safety of rideshare services and taxi cab services and issued a Policy Analysis paper. The Institute concluded that the driver screening conducted by rideshare companies, while imperfect, was superior to that required for taxicab licensing in many jurisdictions. In the intervening years, many rideshare companies have increased the precautions they take.
The Institute report concluded that “there is little evidence that the sharing economy services are more dangerous than traditional taxis.” But, getting into a car with a stranger will never be 100% risk-free. If you choose to use rideshare services, it’s important to take reasonable precautions—just as you would if you were getting into a taxi or car service vehicle.
Rideshare Safety Tips
First, make sure the vehicle you’re getting into is actually the rideshare vehicle you summoned. Both Uber and Lyft provide information through the app to help you identify your car and driver. Unfortunately, many people simply assume the car that stops is the right one, and don’t stop to check the driver’s photo, make sure the vehicle matches, or check the license plates. Don’t let being in a rush or feeling silly stop you from making use of these important security features.
Once you’ve determined that the vehicle is the right one:
- Ride in the back seat. Though there’s no rule precluding a passenger from sitting in front, putting a little buffer between the driver and passenger makes the trip safer for both.
- Trust your instincts. If you are uneasy about the driver or the condition of the vehicle, don’t get in. You are always free to cancel your ride.
- Travel with a friend when possible. If you can share an Uber, you and your friend will both be safer.
- Think twice about using rideshare services when you’re impaired. Although Uber and Lyft are often billed as a great way to avoid driving under the influence, many of the reported assaults by rideshare drivers occurred when the passenger passed out in the car. If you’re not alert and able to care for yourself, a ride from a trusted friend or family member who is sober is a safer alternative.
- Use Uber’s “Share My Trip” feature to let a friend or family member view your route. In the unlikely event that the driver veers off course or makes an unexpected stop, someone will know about it immediately.
Whichever you chose–taxi, Uber or Lyft–use common sense and do not get in a vehicle with someone that makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe. If you or someone you love is injured while riding in rideshare, call us to discuss filing a lyft claim or an uber accident claim today.
Paul Cannon has practiced personal injury trial law since 1995. He is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law (2005). He has earned recognition as a Super Lawyer by Thompson Reuters in 2017 & 2018, and as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers Association in 2017. He is a Shareholder, trial lawyer and online marketing manager at Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. His legal writings have been published by the Texas Bar Journal, Business.com, Lawyer.com HG Legal Resources, Lawfirms.com, and others. He has been asked to give education talks and media interviews on dog bite law.