The taxi and ridesharing industries were revolutionized with the 2010 launch of the Uber app. Over the last decade or so, Uber alone provided rides to over 75 million riders and helped roughly 4 million drivers across the globe earn as either part-time or full-time Uber drivers. When you add the numbers of Lyft and other ridesharing startups to the mix, the picture is that much more impressive.
Despite this growth, however, ridesharing laws have been somewhat slow to keep pace with changes in the industry, and issues related to driver and passenger safety, background checks, violence, and even rape have started to dent the pristine image of these Silicon Valley unicorns. Today more than ever, people have begun to wonder whether ridesharing is as safe as it is touted to be.
Taxis vs. Rideshares
Comparing the rules, pros, and cons of taxi drivers vs. their ridesharing counterparts is, at best, a comparison between apples and oranges. However, the following criteria can be used to paint an accurate picture of the strengths, weaknesses, and potential areas of improvement for drivers who participate in both industries.
For the most part, Uber and Lyft drivers in the U.S. and taxi drivers undergo very similar background and credential checks before they receive a license to operate either a taxi or a ridesharing vehicle. Depending on the state, however, Uber and Lyft drivers are not required to undergo the same drug and alcohol tests and background requirements that taxi drivers are.
Due to a lack of regulation (or at least regulation that is yet to catch up to industry developments), Uber and Lyft drivers aren’t as easily or as frequently monitored as taxi drivers. As a result, issues such as misdemeanors on a driver’s record often go unnoticed, and many ridesharing drivers can even have alcohol in their bloodstream while they are driving, but only as long as it is under the legal limit. Taxi drivers are not allowed to have any alcohol whatsoever in their bloodstream while driving.
Vehicle Models and Maintenance
Uber and Lyft require their drivers to use relatively newer vehicle models than taxi companies do. However, ridesharing drivers, in general, perform service and maintenance checks on their vehicles with a lower frequency than taxi drivers.
Native Apps and Liability
Thanks to the native apps that Uber, Lyft, and other ridesharing companies provide, riders can see driver ratings and user comments, use real-time GPS to locate loved ones, and make travel bookings in advance, that too with numerous vehicle options all at their fingertips.
Payments and tips are also handled within the app, making for a seamless and intuitive experience. However, despite these bells and whistles, unless a ridesharing accident occurs at a specific time and under specific circumstances (for example, the driver must be logged in to the app and either with a rider or proceeding to pick a rider to be eligible for Uber or Lyft insurance coverage), the ridesharing company will likely not be liable for injuries or damages that occur as a result of an accident. Taxi drivers and taxi companies, on the other hand, are generally held liable for such occurrences.
The Bottom Line
Uber and Lyft exceed the safety requirements of local companies in some areas, but in other areas where the rules are ambiguous or less stringent, they often fall short of local compliance standards. Native ridesharing apps definitely make for a quicker, simpler, and more hassle-free riding experience for the average user and driver information is more readily available to ridesharers than it is to taxi riders, but taxi drivers tend to be thoroughly vetted professionals who drive full-time and not as a side gig. In terms of the overall user experience, therefore, ridesharing is preferred, but in terms of overall safety, taxi drivers win out. Which one you choose the next time you need a ride will likely depend on the circumstances, such as where you are, the urgency with which you need a ride, and what other options are available at the time.