Viewpoint: Uber and Lyft Should Be Subject to Equal Standards as Taxis

As an Illinois personal injury attorney, I’ve seen first-hand the devastation caused by rideshare accidents and assaults. It is important that ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft prioritize safety, and are held accountable for any safety failures.

Sadly, the safety standards currently set by ride-hail services are inadequate and don’t provide adequate protection to passengers or drivers. The Illinois legislature has decided to classify ride-hailing companies as “common carrier” and require them to adhere to a higher safety standard, just like taxis or other public transportation services.

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Illinois law states that a “common transporter” has a duty to its passengers “to use the highest level of care appropriate for the type of vehicle it uses in its practical operation.” This seems like an appropriate rule for businesses that earn millions on our roads, right? Uber and Lyft, however, are not subject to this standard. They are judged the same as every other motorist. This allows for their drivers to have less experience, be less qualified and be less safe.

By classifying these companies “common carriers”, they would be legally obliged to ensure the safety and security of their passengers by implementing measures such as thorough background checks, regular vehicle upkeep, and driver safety training. This would ensure greater protection for passengers, and that ride-hail services take their responsibility of providing safe transportation seriously.

In the last decade, how many stories in the news have you seen about crimes, such as assaults, rapes, and injuries in rideshare vehicles? These failures are due to the fact that rideshare companies have no incentive at present to ensure a safe environment.

Take the case of Doe v. Lyft. A woman in Chicago was allegedly sexually abused by her Lyft chauffeur. In this case, Doe was asleep in her Lyft and her driver drove her to a dark alley where he allegedly whipped out a knife and zip-tied Doe’s hands, repeatedly assaulting her. The woman sued her driver, Lyft, and the background check company that was used by Lyft. Lyft claimed that Illinois law did not define its drivers as common carriers, and therefore it could not be held responsible for the victim’s damages. In January 2022, the Illinois Supreme Court dismissed this case, presumably to the satisfaction of Lyft.

Uber and Lyft are more interested in being “cheap”, than “safe”.

You may have received an email from your legislators recently asking them to oppose House Bill 2231. Rideshare companies claim the legislation is “a disguised safety bill” that will result in dramatically higher fares.

These misleading tactics are an effort to fool passengers into lobbying in opposition to a bill which would protect them. House Bill 2231, however, is not a veiled safety bill. It is a genuine effort to ensure safety for passengers of ride-hail services. It is very concerning that Uber and Lyft try to mislead their customers into thinking this legislation is only about raising fares. Their primary concern is clearly their bottom line and not the safety their customers. This kind of behavior must be condemned.

Other cities and states have increased their safety standards and rideshare companies appear to operate without any issues. Safety improvements such as driver training, enhanced background check, and emergency features in the app can also be implemented at a low cost.

The safety of passengers should always come first, before profits for ride-hailing companies. We must continue to press for legislation, like House Bill 2231, that puts passenger safety at the forefront.

Bryant M. Greening, an attorney from Chicago and co-founder at LegalRideshare is a personal injury lawyer.