Submitted by Cutter Law
In the past years, ride-sharing apps have exploded in use and popularity. However, with the influx of this technology, ride-sharing apps have created a perfect environment for sexual predators to prey on unassuming individuals. This comprehensive guide discusses the prevalence of sexual assault in rideshare apps, lawsuits and legal action against major ride-sharing platforms, and safety measures that Lyft and Uber passengers can take to avoid unwanted sexual contact.
Why does Rideshare Sexual Assault Happen?
Ride-sharing has become a very popular and safe way to avoid driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Unfortunately, when you’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you become more vulnerable to sexual assault by a rideshare driver or by a sexual predator posing as a rideshare driver.
Although rideshare companies such as Lyft and Uber screen their applicants’ criminal histories and driving records, the screening process does not adequately eliminate all sexual predators. Furthermore, some drivers do not receive adequate training about sexual assault, sexual misconduct, and sexual harassment. Additionally, most rideshare companies have failed to implement essential safety protocols that are used by taxi drivers, such as passenger dividers and cameras. This has unfortunately led to reports of rape and sexual assault by drivers of rideshare companies in recent years.
Uber/Lyft Sexual Assault Statistics and Reports
In a 2019 news story by National Public Radio, a new report showed that Uber received almost 6,000 assault claims in the prior two years. In its first safety report update released in early December 2019, Uber noted that it had reports of 3,045 sexual assaults, 9 murders, and 58 crashes in rides in the United States in 2018. The reported victims included both passengers and drivers. Also, the reported numbers are probably lower than the actual numbers because victims often don’t report sexual assaults.
After Uber released its report, the California Public Utilities Commission fined Uber $59 million for refusing to share the names and contact information of victims of the 3,000 reported sexual assaults, due to various privacy concerns. In July 2021, under a preliminary agreement, Uber negotiated the fine down to $150,000. Under the agreement, Uber is not required to give victims’ names to the Commission but agrees to give out anonymous data about Uber sexual assaults on its website. The preliminary agreement also requires Uber to donate $4 million to the California Victim Compensation Board and donate another $5 million to address sexual assault and safety concerns in the ride-sharing industry. The agreement would also allow Uber riders to opt in to being contacted by California law enforcement when they report a sexual assault. This opt-in feature would apply to all rideshare companies.
As of June 2021, Lyft had still not disclosed its reports of sexual assault incidents, despite pledging to do so three years ago. In March 2021, Lyft blamed the delay on the victims’ privacy issue between Uber and the California Public Utilities Commission. Lyft also stated that the company is waiting on government traffic fatality data to be released before releasing its report. Meanwhile, at least 72 Lyft passengers have filed lawsuits against the ride-sharing company based on its negligent handling of reports of sexual assault and rape, with some cases claiming that Lyft knew that some of its drivers were sexually assaulting passengers but did nothing to stop it.
Tips to Help You Stay Safe and Reduce Sexual Assault in Ubers and Lyfts