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Who IS Driving You?

Who’s Driving You is an initiative launched by the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association (TLPA) to bring awareness to the lack of personal safety of Uber and Lyft passengers. Uber and Lyft’s failure to perform fingerprint-based background checks on their drivers, exposes passengers to drivers who have been convicted of a variety of crimes, including sexual assault.

The following link includes a list of incidents that involve Uber and Lyft drivers accused of physical and sexual assaults, kidnapping and even death:  Who’s Driving You

The website breaks down the alleged incidents as follows:

  • 50 deaths attributed to ride-sharing drivers
  • 96 physical assaults
  • 374 alleged incidents of sexual assault and harassment
  • 16 kidnappings
  • 24 felons approved to drive
  • 101 imposters
  • Multiple numbers of other serious incidents

Major Cities Report Sexual Assault While Using Ride-Sharing Companies

A CNN investigation uncovered that as many as 103 Uber drivers are alleged to have sexually assaulted or abused passengers over the last four years in 20 major U.S. cities. Approximately 31 drivers have been convicted so far and there are a number of additional criminal cases pending.  CNN acknowledges there are likely many more occurrences of sexual assault than were found during the investigation. The civil cases against Uber and Lyft for money damages are also piling up.

Four major cities reported a number of sexual assaults by Uber and Lyft drivers:

  • Since 2016, Boston PD has had 24 complaints of Uber drivers sexually assaulting passengers and 3 more complaints were made against Lyft drivers during the same period.
  • Since 2016, Los Angeles PD received 13 sexual assault complaints against Uber drivers, 8 more against Lyft drivers, and a dozen more against ride-share drivers where the company was unclear.
  • Since 2015, Austin PD has received no less than 16 complaints of sexual assaults by Uber drivers and at least 10 against Lyft drivers.
  • Since 2015, Denver PD received no less than nine sexual assault complaints against Uber drivers and at least 12 complaints against Lyft drivers.

Not all of the cases resulted in criminal convictions but these numbers are alarming. In response to the CNN article, nine members of Congress sent a letter to five ride-sharing companies, including Uber and Lyft, inquiring about the steps they’ve taken to improve passenger safety. This letter sought to seek clarification on the following subjects:

  • What is the process for reporting and reviewing allegations of sexual violence or discrimination?
  • What instances do they refer to law enforcement?
  • Do they provide training on sexual violence and discrimination prevention to new drivers?
  • Do they maintain records of drivers accused of sexual violence or discrimination? How do they handle those allegations and do they inform their customers?
  • Is there a protocol in place among ride-sharing companies to alert all such companies to an allegation of sexual violence or discrimination against drivers who work for multiple ride-sharing companies?

Uber Responds

In response to these concerns, Uber emailed its customers to underscore their commitment to passenger safety through improving driver screening. Additionally, users can now share trip details with “trusted contacts” and they’ve added a button in the app that calls 911. The “emergency button” shares a rider’s location with the police. Uber blocks drivers’ access to the app if they’ve been accused of sexual assault by customers or police.

Uber also pledged to run driver background checks annually. However, it still fails to conduct in-person interviews, or do government-run background checks, which include fingerprinting, to confirm the identity of the driver.

Unfortunately, sexual assaults by ride-share drivers are continuing to occur all across the nation.   Here are some cases taken from the headlines:

  • A San Diego woman who was intoxicated got into an Uber for a ride home. During the ride, she asked the driver to pull over so she could throw up, and then passed out on the back seat. She woke up to the Uber driver raping her, just a short block away from her home. When the driver, John David Sanchez was arrested, the police found videos of Sanchez raping women and abusing young girls spanning a period of five years. Sanchez was sentenced to 80 years in prison for raping the Uber passenger, and 33 other counts including multiple sexual assaults on other women and children.
  • A woman in Miami took an Uber home after drinking at a bar. She passed out on the way home, the driver carried her into her apartment and raped her on her bed. The next morning she woke up to find her pants and underwear on the floor. The driver pled not guilty for sexual battery and his criminal trial is pending.
  • In Long Beach, a woman who was intoxicated and fell asleep in the back of an Uber vehicle woke up to the driver assaulting her. The driver was later found with her phone and arrested. The driver claimed that the sex was consensual and the charges were dropped. However, the woman filed a civil case against Uber over the incident and for Uber’s misrepresentation that its services are “safe.

These rapes are especially significant because Uber joined with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) in order to promote their “safe ride home” message. MADD is a respected organization and is well known for its efforts to reduce drunk driving. As part of its “designated rider” campaign, MADD urges the public to take an Uber if they’ve been drinking.

Alcohol isn’t always involved in these incidents. Alfonso Alarcon-Nunez was arrested earlier this year on multiple sexual assault charges of no less than four women in San Luis Obispo while driving for Uber. He pled not guilty to ten felony charges. The four known victims ages 19-22 were all college students. The rapes occurred between December 17, 2017 and January 14, 2018.  Bail was set at $1.5 million and Alarcon-Nunez was permanently removed from the Uber app.

In two other cases, drivers pled guilty to sexual assaults while driving for both of the ride-sharing companies. After being discharged by Uber, a Seattle driver began driving for Lyft and sexually assaulted a Lyft passenger. In the other instance, a San Diego driver pled guilty to indecent exposure, falsely imprisoning an Uber rider and a separate battery of a Lyft passenger.

Sexual predators almost always have multiple victims by the time they’re caught, so it’s very likely these men have assaulted others. If you’ve been sexually assaulted by an Uber or Lyft driver, don’t blame yourself. You’re not alone. If you didn’t consent to be touched, report it to local authorities immediately and then contact the Uber and Lyft sexual assault attorneys at Estey & Bomberger for a free, confidential consultation (888) 675-8555.