In March of 2018, a woman was killed when a self-driving Uber vehicle ran over her as she was crossing the street one night in Tempe, Arizona. Uber had foreseen the dangers of self-driving vehicles, and installed a “safety driver” in case of sudden emergencies; but on this night, the safety driver was busy streaming a show on her cellphone.
Because of this, and many other incidents involving Uber drivers—including thefts, alleged assaults, and overlong treks around cities—Uber launched a program called “RideCheck” in 2018. RideCheck is a GPS based program, which is intended to provide real-time tracking of Uber vehicles.
Did It Work?
At the end of 2019, Uber released the first of its US Safety Reports, summarizing the data gathered by its RideCheck program, detailing the number of deaths, accidents, assaults, robberies, and “non-consensual sexual contacts” that took place in Uber vehicles over the past two years. However, since this is the first such report, it is difficult to assess whether or not Uber has successfully reduced the number of such incidents in their vehicles since the inception of the program.
Besides the mere accidents, where a Uber driver hit something (another vehicle, a fixed object) and injured a passenger, other disturbing findings include:
- Substandard driving. Complaints about hard braking, swerving, abrupt lane changes.
- Physical assault. This included yelling, assault, battery, and refusing to take the fare to the destination.
- Sexual assault. Uber considered a sexual assault to include either an assault that happened during an Uber ride; or between two parties who met one another during an Uber ride. The assault itself could consist of everything from non-consensual kissing to rape.
What Isn’t There
Uber’s report did not include statistics on theft, robbery, non-fatal accidents; substance abuse or DUI among the drivers; mechanical failure or damage to the drivers’ cars; reports of fraud; and other complaints that may be getting lost in the background of Uber use.
Uber is not, of course, a taxi company, but a transportation app. Their position had initially been that they provide a way to bring together people who want to drive and people who need a ride, and after that, the parties are on their own as to what happens next. However, court cases in 2017 and 2018 made it clear that Uber drivers are employees, and Uber can be held liable for failing to screen out known felons and sex offenders, and for failing to terminate individuals who have displayed certain acts on the job—like watching live stream videos instead of watching the road.
So What Do I Do?
If you use Uber or Lyft and become the victim of a crime—any crime—or are involved in an accident, the first thing to do is contact the authorities. If you are injured, and the driver has not called 911, you should go at once to the emergency room. This will ensure that the insurance companies will pay for your treatment. If you have been the victim of any sort of crime, or even if you aren’t really sure, call the police. Make sure a written report with the date and time of the incident exists.
Then call an attorney. Because of Uber’s lackadaisical attitude until recently, the number of awful acts committed by their drivers is sadly high—and the number of attorneys handling them is not great. However, be sure you are in the correct jurisdiction. If you are in Los Angeles, or if the event took place in L.A., you will need an L.A. Uber accident attorney. Just because you’re reading this in Des Moines doesn’t mean you won’t need the services of Freeman & Freeman if the Uber accident happened on your way out of LAX.