Recent undercover investigative reports by leading news outlets show a disturbing trend among rideshare companies: All too often, drivers are willing to break company rules that are in place to ensure passenger safety—specifically those concerning underage youths traveling without adult accompaniment.
While such unsafe practices could involve a lack of policy enforcement at the corporate level, poor conduct by the drivers, or lack of awareness on the part of the parents—it all comes down to adults shirking both responsibility and common sense simply to get children from point A to point B.
So what’s the rule? While it is not illegal, both Uber and Lyft policies publicly state that a rider must be 18 or older to have an account, request rides, and ride alone. Yet, undercover investigations by local news stations and first-person interviews by reporters in Atlanta, Colorado, Phoenix, Chicago, and Detroit all revealed children hailing rides without adults—some as young as eight-years-old.
Should you be concerned? The answer is a definitive yes. Even with both industry leaders performing background checks on their drivers, things can go awry with life-altering results. In May of 2018, a New York Uber driver was arrested for allegedly showing porn to underage passengers. Just outside of Atlanta, Gwinnett County police charged an Uber driver with raping an intoxicated 16-year-old girl. In 2017, a Lyft driver in Davie, Florida dropped a teen boy of at his home to then allegedly return and force him to perform a sexual act.
While many parents point to each company’s practice of performing background checks, the process can leave a lot to be desired. When Massachusetts enacted a new background check law in 2017, more than 1 out of every 9 rideshare drivers failed—including over 300 convicted felons and 51 sex offenders. Colorado has slapped Uber with an almost $9 million fine for allowing dozens of unqualified drivers on the Centennial State’s roads. While not official numbers or limited to young passengers, one organization has tracked hundreds of rideshare incidents during recent years to report 47 deaths, 350 sexual assaults and 16 kidnappings.
Dave Sutton, a spokesperson for WhosDrivingYou.org—a group that is lobbying for stricter screening requirements for rideshare drivers—sums up the situation with the following comment, “Just because an app makes it easy, doesn’t mean it’s safe… or wise.”
Good advice for parents, as the takeaway here should be that your child’s safety should never take a backseat to convenience—you should always know who you’re entrusting your child to or make other arrangements.
Both an Emory School of Law graduate and MBA graduate of Goizueta Business School at Emory, Chris Nace focuses his practice on areas of medical malpractice, drug and product liability, motor vehicle accidents, wrongful death, employment discrimination and other negligence and personal injury matters.