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Are Uber Driver Assault Stories Overblown?

As an Uber driver, I often find myself sitting at red lights around a major city and looking to my right or left and still seeing taxi cabs. To my bigger surprise, there are still people in them despite Uber’s super low rates and a very convenient app. I find myself wondering why people would choose a taxi over a rideshare service, so I began occasionally asking passengers what they thought about taxi cabs and their stories are all the same: They’re expensive, “gross”, hard to find, and not trustworthy regarding going longer routes for the bigger fare.

Months have gone by and the stories never change, but I still see people in taxi cabs. Why? It likely has to do with the massive smear campaign that continues to go around social media and even the network news stations where they are very quick to point out a person committing a crime was an Uber driver. In fact, I’ve posted stories about how groups post ridiculous ‘sting operations’ to catch Uber drivers doing things, like a taxi cab group asking drivers for “off the clock” rides or an unaccompanied 17-year-old taking a ride.

Obviously, there are going to be Uber drivers that fall through the cracks and do bad things. Background checks are only good to catch people who have a criminal record and we all know that criminals have to start somewhere. Every single criminal had a clean record at one point in their life, and it was clean until the first crime they committed. There is absolutely no way for any company to completely prevent their employees (or “contractors” in this case) from ever committing a crime. It’s a sad fact of life.

However, because of the complete decimation of the taxicab industry caused by Uber, there are quite a few former drivers with plenty of time on their hands and every reason to be upset. There is an entire website dedicated to tracking crimes committed by Uber and Lyft drivers (you can view that site here if you want). I should note that website was created by the TLPA which is a group for taxi/limo drivers and obviously would have an agenda against the rideshare industry (full discloser: As I pointed out in the very first sentence, I drive for Uber).

Now the big question is: Are the stories against Uber drivers blown out of proportion?

Uber driver Pierre Hugues Louis, of Stoughton, Mass., front, applauds with other Uber drivers following testimony by Uber East Coast general manager Meghan Joyce during a hearing on the regulation of ride handling companies, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015, at the Statehouse, in Boston. Legislation filed by Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker would require all drivers for ride hailing companies to undergo state criminal background checks. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

That answer is always hard to say because any story of an assault by anyone should be highlighted in the media so people can know the dangers of whatever they choose to do. There are stories of people sitting outside of bars and pretending to be Uber drivers to lure in drunk people. Or stories of people hopping in the wrong car because they didn’t check the license plate (numerous people have just hopped into my car thinking I was their Uber driver). Being an Uber driver is much easier to fake than being a taxi as all you really need is a sticker versus a bright yellow car, livery plates, and a plaque on the outside of the car with the taxi number. For that reason, it is very imperative that riders check and double check the license plate number and make sure the car matches the one listed in the app. Also, require the driver to say your name before getting in the car. Those small steps will reduce your chances of being assaulted by a fake Uber driver by like 99.9%.

I can’t speak for how the system was years ago when it first started, by I can say now that both companies (Uber and Lyft) run a pretty extensive background and CORI check on their drivers. In fact, back in 2015, an Uber spokesperson said that around 8% of taxi drivers in Boston who have undergone the Uber background check system actually failed. As someone who drives almost exclusively around Boston and has heard stories about taxi drivers, this is not at all a surprise.

So I’ve established that fake Uber drivers are almost always dangerous and riders definitely need to be diligent about getting into the right car, but legitimate drivers have passed background checks that even some taxi drivers will fail. Uber drivers are also a bit safer on the road as almost all of them are using cars they own, so they easily treat the car much better than a cabbie would some car he’s leasing.

That brings me to my final point: Are taxi drivers less likely to commit a crime?

The short answer is no. In no way is your safety guaranteed when you’re in a car with a stranger whether it’s a bus, plane, train, rideshare, or taxi. In order to prove this, I am going to list a few examples of taxi incidents and likely create a page on this site to counter the smear campaign against Uber drivers (stay tuned for that).

Let’s go through some stories…

This was only after about 5 minutes searching and not really doing any advanced searching techniques to find stories that fell through the cracks.

The reason I am posting this article is that as an Uber driver, I am tired of being associated with bad behavior by some rotten eggs. I am also tired of watching taxi groups join Uber Facebook groups and post anti-rideshare propaganda for reasons that I’ve yet to understand (do they think people will quit driving for Uber?). I really don’t want to trash on taxi drivers as the vast majority are also hard working people just looking to support themselves and their families, but rather than spread bullshit on rideshare companies, perhaps they should look inward and realize they have quite a bit of blame to take for their own demise.  Trying to scare people away from Uber into the arms of taxi drivers is not working nor will it ever work.

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