Uber’s shocking revelation that nearly 6,000 ride-hailing passengers and drivers were sexually assaulted between 2017-18 underscores the need for industry-wide reform, said Estey & Bomberger attorney Mike Bomberger.
Lyft has not released any data on the number of sexual assaults that have occurred on its platform.
“Lyft continues to put passengers in peril by ignoring the problem,” Bomberger said.
Estey & Bomberger represents more than 100 Uber and Lyft sexual assault victims.
“Several of our clients were attacked last year during the Christmas holidays, and on New Year’s and Halloween,” Bomberger said. “So, we worked with them to develop a list of ‘best practices’ that ride-hailing passengers, particularly women, can use to help them stay safe during the holiday season.”
- Practice using your phone’s voice recording app (standard on most phones) or download one prior to your ride, so you can record your rides. Although Uber is testing cameras in cars in Texas, it’s a limited trial, so it’s imperative that women protect themselves, Bomberger said. “I’m convinced drivers won’t rape or assault passengers if they know they’re being recorded,” he added.
- Familiarize yourself with the Uber and Lyft in-app “panic buttons” that connect you to 911 dispatchers. Don’t hesitate to call 911 if you feel threatened.
- Let someone know you’ll be getting into a ride-hailing vehicle before requesting a ride. Give them your destination and estimated arrival time.
- Take a screen shot of your confirmed ride after you’re paired with a driver and be sure to share your status/route with a trusted friend or relative so they can monitor your ride. Calling them during your ride to re-confirm your whereabouts is also a good idea, Bomberger said, because this tells the driver that people are watching.
- If the driver doesn’t say your name when you approach their vehicle, ask them for it. Don’t get in if the driver doesn’t know your name. Also, make sure their name, appearance, vehicle model and license plate number match the name, photo and vehicle information sent to your phone.
- Try not to ride alone and do try to sit in the back seat. “If you sit in the front seat you can bypass childproof locks if they’re engaged by the driver but sitting in the front seat makes you more vulnerable to groping,” Bomberger said. “If you can’t unlock your door, or the driver says he or she can’t disable the locks, call Lyft or Uber immediately and demand they be unlocked.” A Texas victim, who was sexually assaulted by a Fort Worth Uber driver last February said, “The driver told me I had to sit in the front seat for ‘safety’ reasons. But shortly after I got in, he started groping my hands, legs and breasts, and tried to kiss me.”
- Be polite but do not engage the driver in conversation.
Estey & Bomberger has numerous lawsuits pending against Uber and Lyft, two of which were filed last week. A disabled 23-year-old Uber sexual assault victim, Cheyenne Gutierrez, is the plaintiff in a lawsuit filed Dec. 5 in Los Angeles Superior Court.
A lawsuit against Lyft was filed Dec. 4 in San Francisco Superior Court that lists six named plaintiffs and 14 anonymous plaintiffs.
If you are the victim of a ride-hailing sexual assault, please contact our office today.