Philly Rideshare Safety is a Major Concern

May 27th, 2019 by Wapner Newman

Ride-share services like Uber and Lyft are a popular way to get around Philadelphia, but passengers using them should exercise caution for their own safety. There have been several ride-share-related crimes reported in Philly in the last two years that include sexual assaults.

The safety issue was brought to public attention recently when 21-year-old Samantha Josephson, a University of South Carolina student from New Jersey, was found murdered. Investigators believe the victim was waiting for her Uber ride and may have entered the killer’s car thinking he was an Uber driver.

According to the Philadelphia Parking Authority, the agency responsible for regulating ride-sharing in the city, Philadelphia has at least 20,000 ride-sharing cars on its streets, providing an estimated 125,000 rides a day. And now, a state audit has found that while Uber is meeting Pennsylvania requirements to protect its passengers, the company could do more to ensure passenger safety.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a ride-sharing incident in Pennsylvania, you should consult an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. If another party’s negligence or responsibility was involved, you may be entitled to receive compensation to cover your medical expenses, lost wages, property loss, loss of life’s enjoyment, and pain and suffering. However, your case must be handled correctly, or you may never collect the compensation you are entitled to.

What are Safety Features Regarding Ride-Sharing?

While there are already precautions that ride-sharing companies take to protect passengers and drivers, more can be done to ensure safety.  The audit by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) found that Uber needs to do better background checks on its drivers in the state; make it easier for passengers to report emergencies and complaints; and use cameras and other technology to gather data on crashes and other incidents. A similar audit of Lyft is expected.

The following are suggestions to increase safety:

  • Better background checks

    . Uber looks at potential drivers’ credit and driving history and does a criminal background check. However, the PUC found that Uber’s background checks are hindered by Pennsylvania law that bars the continual sharing of arrest information with private companies. As a result, individuals charged with a serious crime could keep driving for up to a year before the company learns of the incident. Uber expects to lobby for changes in the law, and, in addition to doing pre-hiring background checks, Uber will do yearly checks to find drivers who commit crimes after they start working for the company.

  • Better reporting and investigating of complaints

    Passengers with complaints can file them with Uber through an emergency button on the app that connects the rider with 911 and allows sharing of real-time information. However, this requires tapping a black-and-white shield in the lower left-hand corner of the screen which could be missed by a passenger in distress, so the screen icon should be made brighter, larger, and more distinctive. Uber is also adding recommended functions to its app so the emergency button automatically transmits location and vehicle information to 911. This feature will be available in Philadelphia in 2020.

  • Better reporting systems.

    Currently, Uber has a reporting system that can prompt an investigation of a driver and lead to the driver’s removal for serious incidents. However, the PUC found that most complaints have “insufficient information,” and even for serious problems, it may take more than one incident to cause a driver to be barred. Recommendations are to include use of devices like dashboard cameras or additional trip-data that could corroborate passenger complaints.

  • New legislation.

    The PUC wants Uber to lobby for legislation that would give it better access to new arrest information, to fingerprint drivers, and to expand the geographic areas where it monitors criminal-record data. The PPA wants legislators to go further and impose wide-ranging new regulations, such as giving the PPA power to certify Uber and Lyft drivers in the city and to conduct background checks. The companies now conduct the checks themselves and do not have to share data on drivers with the PPA.

  • Driver identification.

    Uber has a “Check Your Ride” campaign that reminds riders to verify the driver’s name, photo, car and license plate number before getting into the vehicle, and riders should provide this information to friends before the trip begins. In addition, Uber plans to use data to indicate unusual activities, such as if a driver unexpectedly stops along a roadway, and then contact both the driver and passenger for more information.

  • Eliminating driver distractions.

    Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration  show that texting while driving and other types of distracted driving accounted for more than 3,400 fatalities in 2016 and 391,000 injuries in 2015. Uber is providing a hands-free component for drivers to increase safety by cutting down on distractions, although this is still on the honor system and is not required.

Contact Us for Help and Guidance

If you or a loved one is harmed while using a ride-share service, you may be entitled to seek damages in a lawsuit that will hold the responsible party, including the company and the driver who were at fault, accountable.  While laws relating to ride-sharing are changing, an experienced personal injury attorney can advise you and guide your case.

The seasoned and compassionate Pennsylvania personal attorneys at Wapner, Newman, Wigrizer, Brecher & Miller offer a free consultation to examine the facts of any ride-share issue that caused damages. Our unique legal approach helps ensure that no stone is left unturned as we investigate and document every detail relating to your claim and do everything possible to get you the settlement you deserve.

Contact us online or call our offices today for your free consultation.