Protecting Uber drivers from unruly passengers: Are cameras, additional background checks necessary?

Reporter: Kellie Miller Writer: Rachel Murphy
Published: Updated:

Collier County Sheriff’s Office said that an Uber driver was choked and beaten by Hunter Cook after the driver picked him up and drove him home. However, Uber’s response to safety concerns is now facing scrutiny. 

The rideshare giant claims to prioritize driver safety, and has implemented several security features over the years. But significant concerns persist, from victim Tanya Blazquez and many others.

“We have no voice. The drivers have no voice with Uber whatsoever,” said Venice resident Kim Haber, now a former Uber driver.

Kim Haber reached out to WINK News after Wednesday’s coverage. She said there were times she felt unsafe and threatened by passengers, and expressed frustration with Uber’s response.

“They need to back us up and call and continue to investigate any of the problems that we report,” Haber said.

Haber’s journey with Uber started off strong, but over the course of ten months, she encountered numerous troubling incidents. For example, Haber said she experienced a violent encounter with a passenger that resulted in damage to her car. She said she’s also been verbally assaulted, and wishes Uber would take more responsibility. As a result of these incidents, Haber said she was released from the company, though WINK News has not verified the details at this time.

The bottom line is that anyone can hop into an Uber as a passenger, regardless of their criminal background. Plus, there’s no physical barrier separating the driver from the passenger. But Haber believes there are solutions.

For example, she suggested Uber needs to do more thorough background checks on both drivers and passengers. She also discussed the idea of cameras found in most taxis, but doesn’t think Uber would be willing to invest in them.

“That’s too much of an expense. They don’t even hand out the lighted signs anymore. If you want one, you have to buy one,” Haber said.

According to Uber, drivers may choose to install and use a dashcam. However, the company did not mention their plans regarding the implementation of cameras.

Additionally, Haber believes Uber needs to change its policy that allows passengers to call for rides on behalf of others.

“You have to have the actual account, and it’s got to be in your name,” Haber said. “And you’ve got to be that person getting in the Uber, no more calling Ubers for friends, family, boyfriends, girlfriends, because those are the people that are the ones who always cause the problem.”

WINK News also stopped by Bluebird Taxi in Fort Myers and spoke to the owner, who said all of their taxis have cameras inside for everyone’s safety. Despite the popularity of Uber, their ridership has skyrocketed thanks to the cameras.

WINK News reached out to Uber and asked if a representative would be available to discuss these proposals. Uber denied the request but sent our team extensive background information, stating Uber is deeply committed to the safety of drivers on the Uber app. 

According to Uber, drivers and riders can report any incident or accident via the app or through Uber’s Safety Incident Reporting line. The company also has developed a number of safety features in the app for drivers over the past several years: 

  • Emergency button: Uber users are able to reach out to 911 directly by tapping on the emergency assistance button found in the safety toolkit. Calling 911 is available nationwide. The ability to text 911 discreetly is available across 60% of the US.
  • 911 integration in 1800+ jurisdictions: If a rider or driver uses the emergency button in one of these cities, our tech and partnership with Rapid SOS enables key trip details to be digitally sent to 911 dispatchers including the caller’s name, make and model of the Uber car, license plate, and GPS. Read more about it HERE.
  • RideCheck helps make sure drivers and riders are OK in the event of a possible crash or unexpected long stop, which was activated in this situation.
  • Follow My Ride feature available in the app for drivers enables them to share their trip route in real time with family or loved ones.
  • “Live Help” from a Safety Agent: In August 2022, we announced Live Help from an ADT safety agent. For situations that don’t require police, fire or medical, Uber users can request a call or text from an ADT agent who can stay on the phone for the duration of the trip and can reach out to 911 if necessary.

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