Uber has released a 78-page report regarding safety incidents after an initial investigation by CNN into sexual assault and abuse incidents connected with the rideshare platform. This report covers 2019 and 2020, and is only the second safety report Uber has released.
Even as its user base decreased during the 2020 pandemic, the company still recorded 141 reports of rape and 3,824 reports of the five most severe categories of sexual assault, which range from “non-consensual kissing of a non-sexual body part” to “non-consensual sexual penetration,” or rape.
Uber claims a decrease in sexual assault incidents compared to its first report. However, the statistics cited in the second report may be influenced by several factors, most notably the fact that 2020 was a pandemic year, resulting in 80% fewer overall rides compared to the previous years.
Uber’s total number of US trips over the two-year period fell to 2.1 billion down from 2.3 billion in the first report, and average trips fell from 3.1 million to 2.8 million per day.
Sexual assault risks and dangers are still present in the Uber rideshare platform. If you or a loved one were sexually assaulted in connection with Uber’s services, contact our legal team right away at (415) 426-3000. Our lawyers are at the forefront of the movement to increase sexual assault safety for all rideshare users.
The following is an assessment of the report from Levin Simes Abrams attorney Rachel Abrams, who has worked extensively on Uber and Lyft sexual assault cases:
“Uber has released additional documentation regarding sexual assaults on their platform. Although we have not received the underlying data and confirmed the accuracy of this report, we do note an obvious issue. The document states ”[a]s our report shows, Uber received 3,824 reports across the five most severe categories of sexual assault and misconduct. Compared to the first Safety Report, which covered 2017 and 2018, the rate of sexual assault reported on the Uber app decreased by 38%.
Uber acknowledges that rides decreased by as much as 80% during the pandemic, too, so part of this decrease in sexual assaults on the platform is likely due to significantly decreased ridership for non-essential travel.”
Have Pandemic Conditions Influenced the Uber Safety Report?
In the report, Uber acknowledges, “The change in rate of sexual assault reports over time may have been impacted by a number of factors, including how the Covid-19 pandemic altered usage of the platform…”
Thus, the reported decreases in Uber sexual assaults may be heavily influenced by pandemic conditions. It is therefore difficult to attribute such decreases solely to Uber’s efforts at increased safety. Additional statements taken directly from the report include:
“With 90% of the US population under some form of “shelter-in-place” mandate, Uber saw a large decrease in trips as we encouraged users to stay home and provided free and discounted rides to essential workers. Nighttime trips and those to venues like bars or nightclubs were particularly impacted as societal nightlife halted.”
“These shifts in societal behavior, as well as how people used the platform, make comparing our 2020 sexual assault rates against pre-pandemic 2019 difficult and unclear.”
“The year 2020 was an anomaly, and researchers are still examining the effects of the pandemic on sexual assault. We won’t have a clear understanding of the pandemic’s effect until we are able to view 2020 in relation to both pre- and post-pandemic rates.”
Lastly, even apart from pandemic factors and influences, Uber’s overall data collection and reporting process remains inconclusive due to an emphasis on overinclusiveness of data. As the report states, “It is also important to note that it’s not possible for us to compare rates of sexual violence directly to national statistics given how overinclusive Uber is in our reporting standards, as well as a lack of conclusive analysis.”
How Safe Is It to Ride With Uber?
Uber has implemented various safety measures over the years, such as online ride tracking features and reporting mechanisms. However, the risk of safety incidents, especially sexual assaults, still remain. Consider the following figures from the latest Uber Safety Report:
- The report listed 141 reports of rape and 3,824 reports of the five most severe categories of sexual assault.
- About 91% of the victims of rape were riders and about 7% of the victims were drivers.
- Women made up 81% of the victims while men comprised about 15% (nearly double that of the first report).
- Uber reported 20 fatalities as a result of physical assaults over the two-year period, 15 of which were riders.
Thus, incidents of sexual assault and violence still occur for rideshare users. As Uber’s report states, “each reported incident represents a harrowing lived experience for the survivor. Even one report is one report too many.”
Are Uber Drivers Safety-Checked?
Uber drivers are screened for criminal backgrounds. The report also outlines various Disqualification Standards for drivers based on criminal history. For instance, drivers cannot access the Uber app if they have any felony convictions or any violent or other disqualifying misdemeanors in the last 7 years.
However, this raises the question as to whether these measures are sufficient, and whether Uber can further strengthen its screening and approval process for drivers.
What Happens When You Report a Safety Issue on Uber? What is Uber’s Safety Investigation Process?
When a sexual assault report is made with Uber, they assign a Special Investigation Unit (SIU) to respond to the incident. The SIU will conduct a case review to obtain the necessary information to determine whether the accused party should be banned from the Uber app.
A case review can include actions such as:
- Speaking with the survivor, reporting party, accused party, and any relevant witnesses
- Considering the accused’s background and history of such conduct
- Obtaining information from various sources, including GPS information, trip timestamps, dashcam or audio recordings, or screenshots of texts
As one can imagine, this process can be a triggering and harrowing experience for the survivor. Accordingly, it is highly recommended that survivors of an Uber sexual assault incident contact a lawyer promptly so they can protect their rights during any potential SIU case review.
When using Uber or Lyft, be sure to follow safety tips to help protect yourself during your ride.
Contact a Lawyer if You Have an Uber Sexual Assault Claim
Uber’s second Safety Report appears to raise additional concerns and issues with the platform. Relevant takeaways from the report include:
- Comparisons between the latest Uber Safety Report and the previous one may be heavily influenced by pandemic conditions in the reporting period
- Uber could implement more stringent background checks
- Uber should adjust its methodology so their reports can be meaningfully compared with national statistics
Rideshare sexual assault is one of the most prevalent yet underreported forms of sexual assault affecting our country. At Levin Simes Abrams, we are leading the way in litigating these cases in order to help expose wrongdoings and enforce more stringent regulations.
If you or a loved one have been affected by sexual assault while riding an Uber, contact us at (415) 426-3000. We can set up a free, no-obligation consultation where you can discuss your concerns in complete confidentiality and privacy.