A CNN investigation found that at least 103 Uber drivers in the U.S. have been accused of sexually assaulting or abusing their passengers over the past four years. 31 drivers have been convicted of crimes against passengers, while many other cases are still pending. A similar study on Uber’s main competitor Lyft found 18 cases of abuse over the past four years. While these numbers are high, the number of unreported cases could possibly be even higher.
Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing companies have lately been under a watchful eye in regards to sexual assault allegations. Uber, which launched in 2010, has branded themselves as the “safe ride home” and has done much to combat drunk driving. However, many of the assault cases involved alcohol which starkly contrasts with the idea that Uber is the safest method of getting home.
Those with the greatest risk of these incidents are women. This especially includes young women, who often turn to Uber in situations where they are drunk and in vulnerable positions. It’s clear that the amount of women seeking safety who are instead met with appalling and upsetting acts of sexual assault is growing. Just recently there was an incident at my own Chapman University.
On April 26, a student was reportedly sexually battered and fondled by a Lyft driver. The student reported falling asleep in the car and waking to find the driver assaulting her. The incident occurred right outside of a residence hall.
Incidents like these add to the already high tension that lone individuals feel when they get into a ride-sharing car. A woman from Miami, who allegedly was carried her into her apartment and sexually assaulted by an Uber driver after she fell asleep in the car, told CNN, “You are pretty much hitchhiking with strangers. How many people is it going to take to get assaulted before something is done?”
Representatives at both Uber and Lyft have addressed the issue.
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said that cracking down on sexual assault is a “new priority for us” but issues like this play into a broader problem regarding safety, especially for women. A Lyft representative stated, “The safety of the Lyft community is our top priority,” and that the company has “worked hard to design policies and features that protect our community.”
While it’s important for these companies to stand out against sexual assault committed by their drivers, they could do more to change policies to ensure a higher quality of safety. Ride-sharing companies should put in place sexual harassment or assault training for their drivers – five of whom reported that they were given none of. They could also give riders the opportunity to choose the gender of their driver.
Changes like these would make it clear that Uber, Lyft, and other rideshare companies actually care about the safety of their riders and about curbing the epidemic of sexual assault in America. If safety truly is one of their top priorities, this change should come swiftly and effectively.
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