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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Uber dangerous? Background checks lacking in lift service

Unlike Arizona, Uber drivers in Colorado are still not required to complete the same FBI and BCI background checks as other regulated transportation, such as limousine and taxi drivers. Instead, Uber can use a private business’ background check process.

This discrepancy has grown as an area of concern for residents in states such as Colorado and others, where passengers have reason to be a little more cautious about calling an Uber.

According to The Denver Channel’s news report on Nov. 20, one of two Uber drivers recently arrested in Colorado was accused of attempted burglary of a passenger’s home and the other was accused of sexually assaulting a passenger. The two incidents spurred a revitalization of complaints originally filed in December 2014 by the Los Angeles and San Francisco district attorneys.

These district attorneys are claiming that Uber failed to produce comprehensive background checks of 25 of its drivers who all had some sort of criminal record. Had these records originally been made available, the chances of these drivers still getting hired would have undoubtedly been reduced from slim to none.

One of these 25 drivers, for example, is a felon convicted of perpetrating “lewd or lascivious acts” against a child under 14 years old and has since given 5,679 rides for Uber, including ones to “unaccompanied children,” according to Steven Musil of CNET.

As more and more of these criminal records that have apparently slipped through the cracks have come to light, it is easy to see why people living in states with looser regulation for Uber drivers are becoming hesitant to trust the company’s screening process.

Uber’s screening process is less thorough than taxi and limousine companies’ because in states such as Colorado, where no new regulations have been enacted, drivers are not required to submit fingerprints. Because of this, the prosecutors pushing the complaints against the company have argued that it is too easy for drivers to use a different or fake name to evade an unwanted criminal record from popping up to their prospective employer.

The prosecutors are also reasonably arguing that running the fingerprints through federal databases would have immediately found these criminal records before the drivers in question were hired.

Because of the lack of fingerprints, Uber also has no fool-proof method of tracking that its rides are being given by registered Uber employees in its system. In other words, a random driver could easily pose as someone else on the Uber system when a passenger orders a ride, regardless of whether or not they have undergone even Uber’s less thorough, private background check.

And this is exactly what prosecutors also found. According to Laura Nelson of the Los Angeles Times and the prosecutors, they have found three unlicensed drivers posing on another driver’s account to drive for Uber so far.

Fortunately for Arizona residents, Gov. Doug Ducey’s signing of House Bill 2135 now requires Uber and Lyft to perform criminal background checks, as well as conduct vehicle inspections and require its drivers to have $250,000 of liability insurance while a passenger is in the vehicle—the same expectations of taxi drivers.

If Uber is providing the same service as taxis and limousines, its expectations and rules should be the same as well. If Uber is unable to rise to these expectations—in every state ideally—the company should not be able to guarantee the same standard of safety as taxis and limos to its prospective consumers.

While the rapid availability of Uber rides is much appreciated, especially to us busy college students, sacrificing the convenience of Uber for a safer alternative may be the smarter choice for those in states that still have yet to enforce elevated expectations of Uber drivers and its employers.

Follow Jessica Suriano on Twitter.

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