Uber & Lyft Drivers and Inappropriate Sexual Behavior
A Comprehensive Survey of over 1,000 Female Passengers and their Uncomfortable Experiences with Rideshare Drivers
In the early hours of a cold January morning, a woman was allegedly raped in her Kansas City residence by an Uber driver after she allowed him to use her bathroom following a ride home. The driver, Yahkhahnahn Ammi, was revealed to be a convicted felon who had previously served eight years in prison for a first-degree murder charge. Additionally, weeks before the incident, Ammi allegedly assaulted a separate woman in St. Louis, and a warrant was issued for his arrest as a result. The female passenger proceeded to file a lawsuit against Uber for her damages, but Ammi remains at large.
Horror stories like this may seem few and far between, but the reality is that female users of rideshare apps such as Uber of Lyft are targeted disproportionately more than male passengers – with inappropriate experiences ranging from staring and flirting to explicit comments and unwanted physical contact. We wanted to know just how widespread these experiences were, so we surveyed over 1,000 females across the country for more information.
“Without a word he placed his hand on my bare left thigh and tried to inch up toward my crotch - I think he was going to try to slip his hand underneath my dress. I think he thought that I was too drunk to do anything about it or be really conscious, but I wasn't.”
According to our findings, 66% reported that a rideshare driver had made them feel varying degrees of uncomfortable during the ride – with more than half of them stating that they felt at least moderately uncomfortable during a rideshare experience.
When asked for additional specifics about any questionable behaviors by rideshare drivers, the number was striking: approximately 72% of female passengers experienced some form of questionable behavior by a rideshare driver during their ride.
Has an Uber or Lyft drive ever done any of the following?
More than half reported that drivers had asked personal questions, but many reported experiencing more than one of the instances on our list. In fact, 6 of the 11 choices listed in the question had a positive response rate of 33% of higher:
Getting asked personal questions
Commenting about their appearance
Flirting with them
Staring or otherwise inappropriate leering at them
Making explicit gestures
Showing them indecent material
Essentially, this suggests that at least one-third of the female respondents have had one or more of the above 6 instances occur to them in a rideshare vehicle.
“One Lyft driver somehow found out my phone number and relentlessly texted me and then got mad at me for "leading him on" when I declined to go out with him and I said his offer to "get me pregnant" was gross and unwanted.”
In the previous question, just 2.6% of respondents reported experiencing a driver who solicited a sexual act – but how many respondents have had a rideshare driver attempt to initiate contact during a ride?
Has an Uber or Lyft driver ever attempted or completed any of the following sexual assault behaviors?
According to our survey, 12% reported having an experience where a rideshare driver attempted to touch them without warning or consent.
Approximately 10% of passengers experienced a driver attempting to touch a non-sexual body part – and 4% reported that actual touching of non-sexual body parts occurred.
It’s important to note that, while these percentages seem relatively low, the actual number of persons who have experienced these uncomfortable instances is cause for concern. For instance, the 10% above translates to 103 respondents – and 4% comes out to 44 female passengers. Regarding the other “low” categories:
24 reported attempted touching of a sexual body part
21 reported attempted kissing of a non-sexual body part
13 reported non-consensual kissing of a non-sexual body part
Additionally, one respondent reported experiencing non-consensual sexual penetration – rape – by a rideshare driver.
Why Is This Survey Significant?
If these numbers still seem low, it’s important to consider that this is a sample size of over 1000 female passengers. A recent investigation found at least 103 Uber drivers in the U.S. who were accused of sexually assaulting passengers in the past four years. At least 31 of these drivers were convicted for related crimes.
However, because this investigation only tallied formal accusations of assault and not informal complaints submitted to police precincts, the actual number of assaults is likely to be much higher.
This may also be the case for our survey. We think that 103 female passengers reporting attempted touching by a driver is incredibly high and warrant further investigation.
Tips for Safe Ridesharing
If you are a passenger in an Uber or Lyft, take these tips in mind the next time you are hailing a ride:
Drink responsibly. Although a rideshare is a viable solution for getting home safely, if you are alone and heavily intoxicated, it may be recommended to find an alternative method of transportation.
Don’t sit in the front seat with the driver if you are the only passenger in the car. Preventing easy access to unwanted physical contact can help prevent a potential assault.
Let a friend or family member know you are taking a rideshare home. Both Uber and Lyft allow you to share your trip – thisincludes your driver, your route, and GPS tracking of where your car is headed.
Do not feel inclined to share personal details through the duration of the trip.
If a driver gives you his direct phone number to hail a ride, Please do not call the number directly. Taking things “off the record” is an immediate red flag against your driver.
If you are feeling uncomfortable at any point during the ride, immediately ask the driver to pull over. You have the right to exit the ride at any time, despite what the driver says.
Rides Gone Wrong: People share their worst Uber or Lyft experiences
"In 2016 I rode Uber more so. I was 21 at the time. Male drivers would ask me where I live, if they can have my number, did I drink or smoke. Some were flirtatious. So if I accepted the invitation clearly it would be more than just a ride. Some were unprofessional. Also in 2016 I had an incident where The driver was a woman and looked similiar to my Assigned driver. Opened the door and said are you the Uber driver she said Yea. Usually I check the license plate to make sure it matches my driver and the face. This time i didnt. Soon as i got in she started speeding. I asked her if her license plate matched the one in the photo she said no. We werent out the lot yet. I told her to stop right there. Let me out and she did. Now it was interesting because the gps said my driver arrived. I didnt feel comfortable with her. Plus in Charlotte this city is known for sex trafficking. An it was getting late and dark outside. I was living on the campus nearby. Contrast Uber from Lyft now. Lyft drivers are more professional. I had a few men try to get my number but most of them were professional. If I felt unsafe i would have them drop me off somewhere near where I was going and walk the rest after they left. There was one time where my driver was suppose to be a woman. The license plate matched and car but it was a man. He didn't make any gestures to me. Said he was driving for his wife. I didnt get the feeling it was true but I felt safe. I didnt report to Lyft the incidemce because I didnt have an issue with the driver. One other time i had a young guy pull up to me and he said are you des. He didnt look like my driver. I checked the plates and they didnt match. I told him that and didnt get in. He was a young guy. The app showed my driver was nearby just like before but Im smart I know when not to proceed. What I would tell other woman is to follow there intuition and MAKE SURE THE LICENSE PLATE MATCH. If the plate don't match you can hop in the car and LYFT WONT BE ABLE TO TRACK YOU DOWN BC ITS NOT YOUR DRIVER!"
"I had a very bad experience late at night with an uber driver who has a friend in his car. At first I thought I had accidentally chosen UberPool but I hadn’t and it became clear that the two were friends. They made me very uncomfortable with questions and language they were using. They tried to take me in a different direction than my route. I called a friend and demanded to be let out of the car. I ended up taking public transportation home."
"The one story that stands out the most is the lyft driver that drove my roommate and I a couple years back. My roommate had called the ride -- she was drunk and oblivious to what was going on; she was in the backseat, and I was sitting in the front seat because I was a bit more coherent than her and thought I would be protecting us if I sat in the front to guide the driver to where we needed to be. Without a word, he placed his hand on my bare left thigh and tried to inch up toward my crotch - I think he was going to try to slip his hand underneath my dress. I think he thought that I was too drunk to do anything about it or be really conscious, but I wasn't. I quietly moved my leg away and moved to as close to the door as possible so that the lyft driver would stop touching me. He moved his hand away, then reached back and did it again. He never made it up my dress because I kept squirming away. When we finally got to where we needed to be, I was relieved."
"A few years ago, a man who was my lyft driver asked who was quite a bit older than me asked me out on a date. It was uncomfortable to say no. Another time, a man who was my lyft driver pressured me to text him on his personal cell when I was done at an event to which he had driven me. He was quite insistent so I took his number, but absolutely did not text him."