VOICES: Violent crimes underscore need for more gig-worker protections

For those who don’t put food on the table by driving for a rideshare service like Uber or Lyft, picture yourself in this scenario: Every workday, multiple times per day, you welcome complete strangers into your vehicle and drive them to their destinations. You know nothing about your passengers, and you don’t even know where you’re taking them until you’ve accepted the rides. You don’t always have photos of your passengers like they have of you, nor are you sure that they’ve disclosed their real names on the rideshare app. Simply put, you have no idea if you’ve agreed to drive a tech-savvy nun to a convent or a career criminal into a set trap targeting you, the gig worker.

For too many gig workers, including those making deliveries for services like DoorDash and Instacart, this unnecessary vulnerability has led to driver-involved assaults and carjackings, many deadly.

Recently, Dayton made national news because of attacks on rideshare drivers, one of which was fatal. On January 26, a group of teenagers allegedly held up a Dayton-area rideshare driver at gunpoint. Later that same night, another rideshare driver was discovered dead in his vehicle. Police believe the same group of teens who held up the first driver later lured the second driver to their location in an apparent robbery attempt.

While media coverage of attacks on gig workers has increased in recent months, drivers across the country know the dangers of the job are nothing new. According to a December 2021 report by The Wall Street Journal, both Uber and Lyft refuse to reveal data on driver attacks, but national numbers indicate carjackings, murders and other violent crimes are on the rise.

Many app-based service companies, including Uber and Lyft, have failed to embrace key safety measures, emboldening bad people to do bad things. Gig workers support our economy, yet many are walking away from their jobs due to safety concerns. If companies truly care about those who enable them to make billions of dollars every year, then they should update their policies to improve safety, starting with the following:

  • Provide gig worker drivers with dashboard cameras to both deter crime and capture valuable evidence should a crime occur;
  • Include an in-app safety alert system for drivers and customers;
  • Require drivers and customers to go through steps that confirm their identity; - Require drivers and customers to upload a government ID and photo;
  • Flag accounts if the driver or customer has past violent criminal convictions; and,
  • Stop using unfair rating systems that penalize drivers and customers for canceling an order due to safety concerns.

The time is now for these billion-dollar corporations to step up and do more to keep gig workers safe.

Bryant Greening is an attorney and co-founder of LegalRideshare LLC, the first law firm in the United States to focus exclusively on Uber, Lyft and app-based injury and accident claims.

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