How Safe Is Uber? Does It Really Depend on Gender?

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Uber Taxi

It’s shorthand for the potential danger faced by ladies using app-based, ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft. Also if you’re previously rejecting how critical it can be, you’ve avoided the rash of headlines like these from across the nation.

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• “Uber Driver Charged By Rape Ordered Held After Dangerousness Hearing” (Boston Globe, August 2016)

• “Police Had Tip That Lyft Driver Charged With Sexual Assault Planned To Flee Country” (Dallas Morning News, November 2015)

• “Police: Uber Driver Responds to Rape, Burglarize Passenger at Her Home” (FOX-TV New Orleans, January 2016)

• “Fake Uber Driver Arrested After Brutal Sexual Assault of Passenger in Westlake: LAPD” (KTLA-TV Los Angeles, April 2016)

You read perfectly. By that last headline, we’ve now reached the point where bad people are posing as Uber drivers to attract innocent women into their cars.

“With the alarming number of claimed physical assaults including ride-hail app drivers, we must bring this problem to the forefront of conversations,” says Delilah Rumburg, CEO of the charitable National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

To that point, the company has allied with another nonprofit, the National Limousine Association (NLA), which — is calling for a “Passenger Bill of Rights” last year as member of its “Ride Responsibly” initiative — has been initiating a nationwide campaign to subject drivers for the Ubers of the world to the same accurate criminal background checks as those behind the wheels of taxis and limos.

To up the ante, both have engaged Pamela Anderson — she of former “Baywatch” fame — to address their case in a Public Service Announcement. “You can’t forever vet the driver you are using,” she says in “The Driving Game!” video, “but the service you are using should.”

Whether even Ms. Anderson will be sufficient to steel the backs of politicians up against regular opponents in the ride-hailing industry in general, and that Uber in particular, remains to be noticed. The main sticking point? Forcing the industry to eventually start paying the more bucks to fingerprint their drivers instead of relying on what NLA President Gary Buffo dismissively calls, “the perilously incomprehensive background checks” Uber and it’s ilk proceed to protect.

Just how overwhelming is the ride-hailing industry?

Consider this: a few months after Uber and Lyft picked out of the Austin, Texas, market last May, rather than comply with new fingerprinting laws that voters had just approved, the issue came up again in Massachusetts. Boston, you see, had been experiencing a slew of alleged physical assaults by Uber drivers that left women on edge. Even so, lawmakers were unable to gather the votes needed to include a fingerprinting requirement in the statewide law that eventually passed.

“It’s really frustrating when you see these attacks happen again and again,” State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry, who favored fingerprinting, says the Boston Globe. “It’s dangerous to the victim and harmful to the neighborhood.”

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