In this age of convenience, ridesharing services such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar fit seamlessly into students’ lives. With few apparent drawbacks besides cost, Uber has gone unquestioned as many Georgetown students’ transportation method of choice, especially on weekends and on evenings when public transit is unavailable and taxis are hard to come by. However, the recent outcries against the management of this popular car service have risen sharply in volume, saliency and validity.
As a technology company contracting out to amateur rideshare drivers, Uber has not been held to the same stringent tests and requirements to which limousine and taxi operators in the District are otherwise subject to — for instance, the standard and reasonable criminal background checks and drug tests that are a requirement for any D.C. taxi operator. This enabled Uber to avoid responsibility when a driver hit a young pedestrian earlier this year and when Uber drivers were accused of sexually assaulting female passengers, as detailed in a recent article in The Daily Beast.
“Who’s Driving You?” is a campaign that has taken up the laudable task of publicizing and eradicating the undue risks of these deregulated taxi services. The campaign rightly claims that ridesharing companies dodge costs by inadequately insuring their cars and inadequately training drivers — neither of which is mandated to the same degree as taxicabs.
When travelling in a city, safety is always a concern. Those who have opted for the additional security of a private vehicle service deserve exactly that. And for those attending a college like Georgetown that is not easily accessible by public transit, maintaining a commitment to safety and security in affordable private vehicle services should be a priority of the utmost importance.
There are, of course, obvious ways to minimize risk: avoid travelling alone, at night or in car services of dubious legitimacy. It is unfortunate that we must add a service so innovative as Uber to this list. Until tighter regulations are imposed on rideshare operators, we urge these companies to be forthcoming about the qualifications of their drivers, and — more importantly — we urge students to be aware of the risks of these services.