Are rideshare services safe?

March 25, 2014 (CHICAGO)

From the federal courthouse in Chicago to Springfield, ride sharing services are a hot topic. On Tuesday, state legislators introduced a new bill calling for more regulation of smartphone, ride services like UberX, Lyft and Sidecar.

"I had no insurances the driver hadn't been drinking before he got in a car I had no insurances he hadn't been up all night before he got behind the wheel. I didn't know what kind of insurance policy he had," Rep. Michael J. Zalewski (D 21st District) said.

In the city of Chicago, attorneys for ride sharing drivers said they're not against regulation, but are filing a motion to intervene in a lawsuit filed by cab drivers that asks the city to stop ride sharing services.

"The taxi cab owners are trying to get the city to arrest these men because they offer competition to the entrenched taxi cab interest," Anthony Sanders, Institute for Justice, said.

Cab drivers are fuming because unlike new car sharing services, they pay about $350,000 for a license and medallion.

State lawmakers said cabs go through more regular vehicle inspections. According to the city, cab drivers' traffic records are checked every month and they are subject to criminal background checks. They also must carry a minimum of $350,000 in liability insurance.

The ABC7 I-Team took an unregulated ride sharing car service and asked about the driver's safeguards compared to cabs.

"In my opinion it is, in some ways it's safer. There is no cash in the car. All payments are by credit card. The ratings system is another aspect we have. If something goes wrong, Uber has a record. They know who you rode with, they can deactivate my account on the fly immediately," Dan Burgess, ride sharing driver, said.

Burgess works for all three ride sharing services. Attorneys representing him say besides his own insurance, each company covers his riders with $1 million insurance policy.

As for the vehicle itself, an Uber spokesperson said they are "inspected when an individual applies to be an UberX partner."

Burgess said he also went through an extensive background check.

"They did a criminal history check and a driver history check on me and I passed," he said.

Cabs can also take part in the same smartphone technology.

While ride sharing services are usually less expensive, sometimes they actually cost a lot more. Because there is no regulation, Uber X vehicles can participate in what's known as surge pricing during peak times. Since the ABC7 I-Team story on how much price surging can cost passengers, Uber added an alert to its app letting people know when surge pricing has ended.

What kind of background checks do cab drivers go through?

Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) fingerprints each new applicant and sends to CPD for background check. We also require them to submit a "court purposes" certified copy of their Illinois motor Vehicle record that is issued by the Secretary of State. We also check their red-light/speed camera ticket history and any debt with the City of Chicago. They also have to pass a drug test and a physical exam administered by a licensed IL physician.

Under the proposed Transportation Network Providers ("TNP") ordinance, TNP (Rideshare) companies would have to be licensed with the City as "transportation network providers," or TNPs. TNP companies will be required to conduct background checks to ensure that all drivers maintain no disqualifying criminal and driving records, undergo training, and operate vehicles that meet annual inspection requirements.

What kind of insurance policies do cabs have to protect riders ?( uber x drivers say they have a 1M policy)

Each taxicab vehicle must carry a minimum of $350,000 in liability insurance.

Under the proposed TNP ordinance, TNPs will be required to have commercial general liability insurance with limits of a minimum of $1,000,000 per occurrence and commercial auto liability insurance of $1,000,000.00 per occurrence.

Are there any other layers or safeguards in place to protect riders in a cab? ( any that ride sharing does not have?)

BACP receives monthly reports from the Illinois Secretary of State listing public chauffeurs that no longer hold an IL driver's license in good standing (meaning it could be expired, suspended or revoked). In addition, CPD bi-monthly issues reports directly to BACP identifying public chauffeurs that have been arrested, have warrants or alerts. BACP then suspends their chauffeur license until clearance comes from the Secretary of State and/or CPD.

Under the proposed ordinance, TNP companies will be required to conduct background checks to ensure that all drivers maintain no disqualifying criminal and driving records, undergo training, and operate vehicles that meet annual inspection requirements. The City will impose the same data reporting requirements on TNPs as currently apply to the taxi industry, enabling the City to better enforce consumer protection laws with respect to ride shares.

Find the city's one page checklist here

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