Students are Uber cautious about ridesharing
Elisabeth Smith | Assistant News Editor
It’s Friday night and a University of San Diego student wants a quick ride down to Mission Beach. She opens up her Uber app and requests a ride, hoping she can trust the stranger pulling up outside her dorm.
Services like Uber and Lyft are popular among college students who use the apps to safely and inexpensively travel around town, but recently the safety of those rides has been called into question as headlines continue to pop up, painting Uber in a dark light.
An off-duty Uber driver was arrested March 3 on the suspicion of driving under the influence in the Gaslamp Quarter. The driver, who claimed to be driving downtown to pick up a fare, crashed into a tour bus and his car burst into flames, according to a NBC 7 San Diego article.
The article said only the bus driver was in the bus at the time of the accident and both drivers were taken to the hospital. The Uber driver failed a sobriety test at the hospital.
This nearby accident happened shortly after the mass shooting in Kalamazoo, MI, where an on-duty Uber driver shot eight people, killing six, in between driving Uber passengers.
These incidents have forced Uber customers to question the safety of their favorite ridesharing service.
Senior Adriana Minicozzi uses Uber for the ease of splitting fares with her friends and because the ridesharing service is more cost effective than taxis.
“I call Uber because my friends and I all have the apps on our phones, and that makes the process of getting a ride somewhere much easier because we can all split the cost,” Minicozzi said. “I also find that it’s typically a lot cheaper than calling a taxi, and it’s more convenient to have the app automatically charge me on my phone rather than to pay a taxi with cash or a card in person.”
Despite the recent violence associated with Uber, Minicozzi does not anticipate switching to other ridesharing services.
“Although the Kalamazoo incident in particular was very scary and concerning, I wouldn’t say that I would stop calling Uber altogether because of it,” Minicozzi said. “I think it was a pretty rare incident that Uber cannot necessarily be totally blamed for, and I think that something like that could happen just as easily with any other driving service, especially a regular taxi.”
Minicozzi expressed that Uber drivers should treat all all passengers, including students, professionally when on duty.
“I think that Uber drivers should be held to high standards regardless of whether or not students have been drinking,” Minicozzi said. “But I definitely think that if Uber riders are drunk or have been drinking that the driver should try and take extra caution when picking customers up and taking them where they need to go. I always find it helpful when an Uber driver makes sure that we’re being safe in the car or that we’re being dropped off at the right place when my friends or I have been drinking.”
Sophomore Wade Pacheco had an experience with an Uber driver that he believed to be under the influence of drugs.
“I had an Uber driver last year I thought was high on pills,” Pacheco said. “We said USD and he took us to SDSU. I thought it was funny and he didn’t charge us for the ride.”
First year Christina Sargent doesn’t think that these isolated incidents should define the ridesharing companies.
“You can’t base your judgment of an entire company because of a few bad incidents,” Sargent said. “There are thousands of Uber drivers and these things are just as likely to happen to any kind of driver — including Lyft or just regular taxis. Even though the companies run background checks, it doesn’t mean every single driver is 100 percent safe to get in a car with. The company does what they can to prevent these things from happening but in reality you can’t predict the unpredictable and you can’t blame the company when things like this do happen.”
According to the Uber website, the company is dedicated to keeping drivers and passengers safe on the road. Their safety precautions include: passenger insurance from pickup to drop off, a driver and passenger code of conduct, driver and passenger profiles, and driver background checks.
“All drivers in the U.S. must provide their license and vehicle documentation before being able to drive with Uber,” the Uber website’s safety page stated. “They’re also required to go through a pre-screening process that includes a review of their motor vehicle records and a search through criminal records at the county, state, and federal levels.”
According to a Time article from August 2015, Uber hired 25 drivers with criminal records in both San Francisco and Los Angeles. The criminal records included property crimes, sex offenses, and murder.
The article stated that San Francisco district attorney George Gascon claimed Uber was presenting false and misleading information to clients about driver screening.
“Uber has said in the past that the limited scope of its background-check providers is required by some state laws, and is in fact a way for the company to help rehabilitate offenders,” the Times article stated.
In an August 2015 New York Times article following the situation in San Francisco, Uber pushed for their business to grow across the nation, turning a blind eye to some safety regulations.
“Uber has aggressively pushed its service into cities around the world, often not waiting for permission from local regulators, it has faced hostility from local taxi drivers who fear it is undercutting their business, as well as increasing skepticism regarding the trustworthiness of some of its drivers,” the New York Times article stated.
According to a Cato Institute Policy Analysis study, ridesharing company’s background checks are stricter than the requirements for American taxi drivers.
The Cato Institute is a public policy research organization, or think tank, that values individual liberty, small government, and free markets. Cato researchers conduct independent, and nonpartisan research on policy issues.
The study also cited that those background checks only go back seven years, which is still stricter than the typical taxi driver requirement.
Overall there is no sure-fire way to guarantee that any ridesharing service is 100 percent safe. USD students have to decide whether they trust companies such as Uber and Lyft, or if they’d rather call a taxi cab or have a friend drive them back and forth from the beach.