Ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft have faced their fair share of negative stories in the news recently. That may just be the price these companies must pay for exploding in popularity and changing the game for an entire industry. But how safe, exactly, are these ride share services? What can statistics and anecdotes tell us about Uber and Lyft, and how should consumers respond?
In 2013, a Washington woman accused an Uber driver of rape; prosecutors did not press charges. In San Francisco that same year, police arrested a driver after he allegedly attacked a passenger with a hammer. Those stories are certainly disturbing, but what can objective statistics tell us? Are those who use ride-sharing apps less safe than those who choose instead to use taxi services, for instance?
A new report from the Cato Institute suggests that the background checks used by Uber and Lyft are adequate to preserve passenger safety. People who wish to drive for the services are screened for histories that include offenses such as sexual assault, DUI and violent crimes. Taxi companies also call for background checks and fingerprinting, but, according to the Cato report, they do not use the same level of scrutiny to find red flags.
There is evidence that driving for hire is far more dangerous than hiring a driver. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that between 56 and 80 percent of work-related deaths among taxi drivers are the result of homicides. Additionally, drivers are often assaulted because they carry cash. In a report in US News, International Taxi Driver’s Safety Council director James Szekely compared taxi driving with “picking up hitchhikers.”
Thanks to the identifying information that ride-sharing apps collect, which includes credit card information, driving for Uber or Lyft is probably safer than operating a taxicab.
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When it comes to new transportation ideas, apps like Uber and Lyft are just the beginning. Google, Mercedes Benz and other companies are proposing innovative new ways to get around safely.