BETH (not her real name), a 77-year-old grandmother of four, called a ride-share company to take her home after attending Sunday morning church services on Oct. 22, 2017. The 41-year-old driver abruptly pulled over minutes away from her Ft. Worth, Texas, home and sexually assaulted her in a wooded area. Afterwards, he drove her the rest of the way without saying a word.
According to online records, he surrendered to police officers and was charged with aggravated sexual assault. Beth has filed a lawsuit seeking more than $1,000,000 in damages against the ride-share company and the suspect.
As the popularity of ride-share companies continues to increase, so do criticisms about the safety of using them as an alternative to taxi and limousine services. They have garnered the attention of the media and the public, in addition to that of trade and safety organizations. Some celebrities are speaking out as well.
Earlier this year, actress Pamela Anderson partnered with Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment (PAVE)--a nonprofit organization that works to prevent sexual assault and heal survivors through social advocacy, prevention, and education--to create a public service announcement about the dangers of ride-sharing.
Safety advocates point out that using an app to call a driver can put riders in danger due to decreased regulation and minimal background checks on individuals who apply to become drivers. Ride-sharing companies do not use fingerprinting or law enforcement to conduct criminal history or background checks. Some do not even meet with drivers in person before it allows them to pick up passengers. This lack of security results in improperly vetted drivers and allows some with criminal records to slip through the system.
According to Mitch Gidder--a certified protection professional, licensed private investigator, and president of Defender Security Services in New York--the ride-share companies are using public databases to conduct background checks. However, state laws concerning the storage and availability of arrest records vary from state to state, frequently making the information on these sites incomplete. When conducting background checks for his clients, Gidder often travels to the jurisdiction where a prospective employee was arrested to obtain accurate arrest information.
Earlier this year, I appeared in a segment on "The Dr. Oz Show" about ride-sharing with civil rights attorney Lisa Bloom. Part of the segment included an...