New Uber Safety Report Focuses on Murder, Sexual Misconduct

A report published in January under public pressure by ride-share service Uber says nine people have been murdered while using the transportation service (nearly half of them were Uber drivers) and the company received reports of 3,045 sexual assaults during rides in the United States in 2018. Another 58 people were killed in Uber car accidents.

“The numbers are jarring and hard to digest,” Tony West, Uber’s chief legal officer, told The New York Times in December. “What it says is that Uber is a reflection of the society it serves.”

The number of incidents represents a minuscule fraction of a percent of Uber’s 1.3 billion rides in the United States last year, the company said.

The Times says there are few comparable figures to judge Uber’s safety record against. The New York Police Department, which keeps a register of sex crimes and rapes that occur on transit systems, counted 533 in 2018, it says. Uber says there were 1,125 complaints of sex offenses involving the ridesharing service during 2017 and 2018, the period covered by the report.

Uber Safety Report and Sexual Assault

Uber released the report after years in which almost anyone with a car could become a driver for a ride-share company without the licenses required in the taxi industry.

Reports of sexual assault and murders have since become a regular occurrence as ride-hailing has become a mainstay of urban transportation, the Times article said. “Many of the companies face a growing number of lawsuits over safety incidents.”

“(W)hile media coverage of the issue of sexual assault-related to Uber has almost entirely portrayed drivers as the alleged offenders, our data shows that drivers report assaults at roughly the same rate as riders across the five most serious categories of sexual assault,” the report says. “Drivers are victims, too.”

The report examines five categories of sexual assault:

  • Non-Consensual Kissing of a Non-Sexual Body Part (reported in about 1 in every 2 million completed trips in 2017-2018)
  • Non-Consensual Touching of a Sexual Body Part (reported in about 1 in every 800,000 completed trips in 2017-2018)
  • Non-Consensual Kissing of a Sexual Body Part (reported in about 1 in every 3 million completed trips in 2017-2018)
  • Attempted Non-Consensual Sexual Penetration, i.e., attempted rape, (reported in about 1 in every 4 million completed trips in 2017-2018)
  • Non-Consensual Sexual Penetration, i.e., rape, (reported in about 1 in every 5 million completed trips in 2017-2018).

To be included in the report, one or more of the following must have been true about an alleged sexual assault:

  • The incident occurred during an active Uber-facilitated trip
  • The incident occurred between parties that were paired by the Uber app, and it occurred within 48 hours of the trip’s completion.

In cases of rape, Uber said, 92 percent of the reported victims were passengers. But across the five categories of sexual assault combined, riders account for nearly half (45 percent) of accused parties, Uber said.

The report also counted motor vehicle fatalities and fatal physical assaults. Among the 19 people killed in assaults in 2017 and 2018, eight were passengers using the Uber platform, seven were drivers using the Uber platform, and four were third parties. Fatal physical assault was reported in about 1 in every 122 million U.S. Uber trips.

There were 107 total deaths in 97 fatal crashes involving the Uber app, the report says. Of the fatalities, 21 percent were drivers using the Uber platform, 21 percent were riders, and the rest were third parties. Thirty percent of fatal crashes involved a pedestrian, a quarter of whom were drivers or riders using the Uber platform while outside the vehicle.

New Uber Safety Technology and Prevention Initiatives

Uber outlined the actions it is taking to improve safety for the people and communities that the ridesharing service serves.

Among the measures are:

  • Driver background checks and screenings. Every U.S. driver’s driving record is reviewed by a third-party vendor, and the prospective Uber drivers receive a criminal history background check before their first trip, Uber says. Uber also says it reviews identity documents such as a driver’s license, Social Security number, proof of insurance, vehicle registration, and other personal information to detect fraud.
  • Yearly background reruns and ongoing screenings. Uber reruns criminal and motor vehicle checks for Uber drivers each year, the company says.
  • Safety Toolkit. The Safety Toolkit is a single place in the Uber app where riders and drivers can access safety features during a trip, including features like Share My Trip, Follow my Ride, Trusted Contacts, and the In-App Emergency Button.
  • Share My Trip, Trusted Contacts, and Follow My Ride. These safety features give riders and drivers the option to share trip details so loved ones can follow them on a map in real time.
  • In-App Emergency Button. The feature allows users to connect with 911 directly through the Uber app. With a single tap, users are provided with critical trip details to relay to the dispatcher, including the vehicle’s location, the rider’s and driver’s names, and the vehicle’s make, model, color, and license plate information.

Defense Against Uber Criminal Assault Charges

Given the low incidence of sexual assault and other physical assault incidents involving Uber rides compared to the volume of rides hired, it is easy to believe that reports of runaway violence and danger among those using and offering ride-hailing services are overblown.

No doubt crimes occur, as they do anywhere in our society. But a criminal allegation should be properly investigated, and anyone accused of a crime deserves a robust legal defense.

If you have been arrested on a charge of assault or sexual assault in connection with an Uber ride or pick-up in New Jersey, exercise your right to remain silent and call the experienced criminal defense attorneys of the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall as soon as possible. Our team will work to seek the best available outcome for you.

Call us (877) 450-8301 at your first opportunity to set up a free initial consultation at any of our multiple offices across the State of New Jersey.