Ride-Booking Lapses Spur Call for a New Passenger Bill of Rights

PassengerRightsCCustomers and critics have reached what you might call a “braking” point with Uber and other ride-booking services after the companies issued warnings that its own drivers might pose a risk to passengers.

Now, a “Passenger Bill of Rights” is being called for to serve as a stop-gap measure until lawmakers crack down on the app-based industry’s most egregious safety issues.

The cry for better regulation comes at a time that the ride-booking industry is piling up allegations across the country of drivers raping and assaulting passengers and has been a public relations nightmare for companies like Uber and Lyft.

Safety—or the lack of it—is the impetus behind current proposed legislation that would require these companies to perform more thorough and rigorous background checks on its drivers (not surprisingly, the companies are fighting this), and something taxi and limousine drivers undergo as a matter of course. The last straw may have been the discovery that the “terms of use” appear to place the burden on passengers to decide whom they’re willing to entrust their lives to when they get in the car.

“By using the services,” Uber states, “you acknowledge that you may be exposed to situations involving third-party providers”—their drivers—“that are potentially unsafe, offensive, harmful to minors or otherwise objectionable, and that use of third-party providers arranged or scheduled using the services is at your own risk.”

And from Lyft, another top player in the industry: “Users understand and accept that Lyft has no control over the identity or actions of the riders and drivers … Drivers and riders use the services at their own risk.”

The Bill of Rights intentionally includes all “ground transportation,” not just app-based services like Uber, Lyft, Sidecar and Whisk, and is in line with the non-profit National Limousine Association’s (NLA) “Ride Responsibly” campaign, which suggested the guidelines so that “everyone can be held accountable to the same standards.”

“As the global voice of the private driver transportation industry,” said Gary Buffo, the NLA’s president, “we feel it is our obligation to promote a safer and more accountable system for passengers and operators.”

Among the rights passengers would be entitled to (which you would think would be a no-brainer):

•    Proof of commercial-for-hire licensing and certifications.

•    A safe and courteous driver covered by commercial vehicle insurance (which ride-booking drivers may or may not have.

•    A fully vetted and trained driver who’s undergone official criminal background checks and pre-hire drug testing.

•    Air-conditioning on request.

•    Fully functioning seat belts.

•    A quoted fare and final charge that match the agreed-upon amount.

•    Assurance that the vehicle has undergone regular inspections and is certified as being safe.

With a new Harris Poll showing a whopping 91 percent of Americans believe there should be mandatory rules/regulations for ride-hailing drivers, the NLA also stepped up pressure on lawmakers by setting up the website www.rideresponsibly.org to provide a forum for public debate on the issue.