Uber and other so-called “ridesharing” companies have been in two-year battle over basic safety regulations with cities across America. Reports of controversies involving Uber have been widespread, and yet Uber is still trying to avoid all types of fundamental safety regulations.
This week’s report that Norcross man who recently worked as an Uber driver was arrested for possessing and distributing child pornography adds only urgency to this matter.
Safe insurance coverage
On New Year’s Eve 2013, an Uber driver killed six-year-old Sofia Liu in San Francisco. In response, Uber announced it had no insurance coverage for accidents when drivers did not have passengers in the vehicle.
Because of this, California passed a law requiring “ridesharing” companies like Uber and Lyft provide primary commercial insurance coverage from the time the app is on until the app is off. The Georgia House just passed a similar bill on Tuesday, March 3.
Georgia House Bill 190 requires that drivers have commercial insurance coverage while logged into the system. This bill would specifically work to cover drivers and pedestrians while a driver’s app is on, but not transporting a customer. This period of time, commonly referred to as “period one,” would ensure an uncompensated death like Sofia Liu’s does not happen in the state of Georgia.
Fingerprint-based background checks
Los Angeles and San Francisco have filed a lawsuit against Uber stating that because Uber doesn’t fingerprint its drivers when conducting its background checks, this casts doubt on the driver’s actual identity. The California district attorneys state that “a criminal could use the ID of a younger brother with a clean record to apply to become an Uber driver. Fingerprinting would usually prevent that.”
Los Angeles and San Francisco are also seeking to make Uber stop using its marketing materials because they falsely reassure passengers that Uber’s driver screening process is safe.
Georgia is also in a battle on how to regulate Uber, in terms of its driver screening process. Here in Atlanta, Uber uses the same background check system for drivers that California is railing against. If Uber’s screening process isn’t good enough for Californians, why should it be good enough for Georgians?
Licensing drivers for hire keeps people safe by enabling authorities to keep tabs on drivers. In order to drive for Uber in Orlando, Florida, applicants must go to go to the Orlando Police Vehicles for Hire Department, fill out a form, prove their vehicle has proper insurance, and go through a background check. This is nothing out of the ordinary for someone getting paid to chauffeur passengers around—and much less than what most taxicab drivers undergo to be licensed.
To Orlando’s surprise, only 10 Uber drivers have complied with this law! Local Commissioner Robert Stuart said as long as Uber tells its drivers the company will cover their fines for not registering, drivers will remain non-compliant.
These basic safety requirements—proper insurance coverage, criminal background checks conducted by law enforcement that involve fingerprinting, and licensing of drivers—must be part of any law Georgia passes to regulate Uber.
If not, then Georgia will have to prepare itself for more horror stories like the Georgia Uber driver accused of disseminating child pornography.
Rick Hewatt is the President of Atlanta Checker Cab.