new florida law impacting lyft and uber

The use of a rideshare company is an unprecedented modern convenience for many people who are traveling or even for those who don’t own a vehicle of their own and need the services to get to work or to go to the grocery store. However, when you get into any rideshare service vehicle or taxi, you want to know that you’re in safe hands. 

Uber is one of the most popular rideshare services in the world. Uber riders generally expect that the company is looking out for their safety, hiring fully vetted, experienced drivers. Background checks are one way that rideshare companies seek to prevent any person who has a history of criminal activity or reckless driving from becoming an employee of Uber, Lyft, or other rideshare services or taxis. 

The potential issue here is that each rideshare or taxi company conducts its own background checks, making them inconsistent across the industry. Because of this, the hiring standards for that of rideshare drivers often fall below that of a traditional taxi driver. How do you know which service is safer to use? Let’s take a more in-depth look at the details of rideshare background checks.

Dangerous Uber Drivers

In 2017, a South Florida Uber Driver Accused of Raping and Injuring Uber Rider. A young female passenger was allegedly raped by an Uber driver on the last day of Sun Fest. Sun Fest is a music festival that takes place in West Palm Beach, FL between May 3rd and May 7th in 2017. The uber driver allegedly forced her to provide oral sex and proceeded to sexually batter her inside her own home in Jupiter, FL.  The Uber driver threatened to kill the uber passenger if she did not do what he demanded.

Uber obviously removed the uber driver from its service and expressed regret that one of their uber drivers sexually assaulted an uber rider. This issue hearkens back to another article I wrote that looks deeper into the type of background check run on uber drivers and begs the question: what does Uber (and Lyft and any ridesharing company) do to screen those who apply to be drivers). What efforts are undergone to safeguard the well being of Uber’s customers and how does this compare to the background screening process of taxicab drivers?

Do Cab Drivers Have Background Checks?

Cab drivers do have background checks. Taxi drivers are generally required to pass a background check in order to become a driver in the first place. While it may differ for every state, taxi driver background checks are often more thorough than those of a rideshare service company. Taxi medallion holders have in-person interviews after undergoing a fingerprint/level 2 background check, which involves a seven-year review of the potential taxi driver’s criminal record. 

What is a Level 2 Background Check?

This raises a related question: can you drive a taxi with a criminal record? The quick answer is no. If any felonies are found in the prior seven years, an applicant is automatically disqualified from driving. However, this only dates back seven years, so any incidents before that will likely not show up from a screening. Level 2 background checks are defined in the Florida Statutes section 435.04 and involve fingerprinting and screening an applicant’s statewide criminal history with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Additionally, applicants are subject to a national criminal history screening through the Federal Bureau of Investigation. 

What Disqualifies You From Being an Uber Driver?

It is clear that taxi drivers are subject to some intense scrutiny before being hired, but does the same go for Uber, Lyft, or other rideshare companies? Florida HB 221, from 2017, outlines in detail the steps Uber or other rideshare companies, referred to as Transportation Network Companies (TNCs), are required to take in order to allow employment of drivers. The bill states that rideshare companies must conduct, or hire a third-party company to conduct, a local and national background check with validation of records through primary source searches, as well as a search of the National Sex Offender Database maintained by the U.S. Department of Justice and a driving history search. 

Rideshare companies are also required to run a background check on each of their drivers every three years. If there are more than three moving violations, Uber and Lyft cannot allow the driver applicant into their system. If there are felony, DUI convictions, or sexual battery-type crimes found in the prior five years, the rideshare service is not allowed to approve the driver applicant—the same goes if there is a match in the National Sex Offender Database. 

Here is a more detailed list of some of the requirements required for TNC drivers per Florida law:

  • Potential drivers must submit information regarding their address, age, driver’s license, motor vehicle registration, and other information required by a TNC.
  • TNCs must conduct, or have a third party conduct, a local and national criminal background check that includes:
    • Multi-state search of criminal records
    • A search of the National Sex Offenders Database
    • A review of the driver’s driving history
  • TNCs must conduct background checks with the requirements listed above every three years.
  • TNCs cannot hire a driver who has had three moving violations within the last three years. 
  • TNCs may not hire drivers who have been convicted in the past five years of the following:
    • A felony
    • A misdemeanor for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, reckless driving, fleeing law enforcement, or a hit and run
    • A misdemeanor for a violent offense or sexual battery
  • TNCs cannot hire drivers who have been convicted within the past three years of driving with a suspended or revoked license.

Which Is Safer: Uber or Lyft?

Under the 2017 Florida HB 221, the law is meant to pertain to all rideshare companies, including Uber and Lyft. This law requires rideshare companies to perform background checks. However, they are up to the discretion of each individual company or third party hired to perform the screening. Additionally, rideshare companies often have their own rules and regulations that determine who can and cannot become a driver outside of the Florida laws. 

How do you know which rideshare service is safer to use? In reality, no one background check process is perfect or unflawed, and it’s important to use your own judgment and knowledge when it comes to determining which rideshare or taxi service to use. If you are injured in a car accident or other personal injury accident due to the negligence of an Uber or Lyft driver, it is vital to connect with an experienced personal injury lawyer who can help you with your claim. 

Contact an Uber Accident Lawyer Today

If you’ve been injured in an accident involving an Uber or another rideshare service vehicle, get in touch with the attorneys at Neufeld Law Firm. We will help you get the compensation you are owed for any damages resulting from the accident. We will work tirelessly to help those who are victims of an accident involving an Uber. If you are in need of an attorney who has experience with Uber or other rideshare company accidents, we are here to help. Contact us today for your free consultation.

Uber Sexual Assault Injury Attorney Resources

https://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/palm-beach/fl-pn-uber-driver-sex-battery-20170509-story.html

https://www.nbcmiami.com/news/local/Palm-Beach-County-Uber-Driver-Arrested-For-Alleged-Sexual-Battery-This-Weekend-421750453.html

https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2017/0221