There’s no question that Uber, Lyft, and others like them have been creating jobs and meeting demands for alternative and tech-savvy forms of transportation. But, as with any new idea, there are unforeseen problems that are just recently starting to make themselves known. Most notably is security.
The safety of Uber’s passengers has been questioned quite often, but after recent events where the drivers found themselves victim, many are starting to wonder what Uber should do to better protect its drivers.
In Idaho, for example, a teenager stabbed his Uber driver to death last year after a long ride to a non-existent location. And an Uber driver in Illinois faced a similar fate when his 16-year-old passenger stabbed him to death in the wee hours of the morning. These tragic stories are just the tip of the iceberg and, we fear, only the beginning.
OSHA has routinely listed taxi cab drivers as one of the 10 most dangerous professions. Comparable for obvious reasons, Uber and Lyft drivers don’t fare any better. In fact, according to OSHA, they’re 60 times more likely to be murdered on the job than any other profession.
The problem with Uber, in particular, is that its drivers are basically left to their own devices. Essentially considered independent contractors, not employees, they’re given very little training and provided very few security measures, if any. They face the same risks as taxi drivers’ but they’re offered a fraction of the protections.
18 years ago, OSHA released a list of recommended safety precautions for taxi cab drivers. Even at nearly two decades old, the mass majority of them are still sound and logical suggestions.
For example, Uber drivers could be provided with safety shields and bullet-proof partitions, like those found in most taxis. This seems like a reasonable piece of equipment to offer drivers, considering the violence it can prevent. Silent alarms were also recommended and could bring much-needed help to a driver facing a dangerous situation with a passenger. Of course, in-car surveillance cameras and direct radio communication with Uber would also make sense. As of now, if a driver is experiencing a problem, they have to email the main office and wait for a response. There’s no real-time communication and absolutely nothing in place for emergency calls or situations.
OSHA also recommended protocols with local police so that drivers could be directly connected with them, especially in high-crime areas. Combine this with the modern miracle of GPS and Uber drivers could easily be tracked if they found themselves in danger.
Most importantly, Uber drivers, and those like them, need better training and support from the companies they drive for. Ubers current training manual is uninspiring, to say the least. And compared to the recent acts of violence against several of their drivers, it seems even more insufficient.
Clearly, Uber needs to set better standards and take steps to protect its drivers.