DALLAS — Uber says its 21-month effort to track and report "critical incidents" like sexual assaults involving drivers and Uber customers, is a transparent attempt to address a problem that affects a fraction of its rides. But lawsuits continue to pour in from victims who say the smallest of fractions is still too many.
In its 2017-2018 Safety Report, Uber says there were 3,045 sexual assaults during Uber rides in the U.S. last year. There were 58 victims of fatal crashes, a number the includes drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. In addition, there were nine homicides that in some way involved an Uber trip.
"The numbers are jarring and hard to digest," said Tony West, Uber's chief legal officer, in an interview. "What it says is that Uber is a reflection of the society it serves."
But as Uber points out that the number of incidents are just .0003% of its 1.3 billion U.S. rides in the past year, Laci Hay feels no consolation in the math. She is part of that fraction, and is now suing Uber.
"Well to me one fraction is too many," the Denton County resident said.
She says in February, on only her second Uber ride ever, a driver taking her home from DFW airport asked her to sit in the front passenger seat. She complied with the request.
"I think that maybe he had put something in my drink," she said of the cup of coffee she'd gotten in the airport terminal. "I can remember bits and pieces, pushing him off of me, asking him to stop touching me, to leave me alone."
The driver was charged with assault in Justin, Texas, north of Fort Worth. Hay says charges of sexual assault against the driver are pending the results of a rape kit.
Hay's attorney Mike Bomberger disagrees with Uber's claim that there's nothing the company could have done. His firm represents more than 100 women suing ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft.
"You could have prevented these things from happening. You had the technology to prevent them but you haven't rolled it out yet," said Bomberger. "And we believe the number of sexual assaults involving Uber and Lyft are under-reported, as is often the case in any sexual assault."
In its report, Uber shares the reminder that through its app, passengers can share their trip with someone else to track their ride and use the in-app emergency button to call for help if needed. In addition, the company reiterates that it's conducting more rigorous background checks on drivers and 99.9% of Uber rides are completed without a critical incident of any kind.
"And that's what's so hurtful is reading their comments," Laci Hay said. "It seems so very downplayed and this has affected my whole family. And so to me one fraction is one too many."
Uber says it is working with more than "200 gender-based violence prevention experts—including the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, and the National Network to End Domestic Violence—to innovate on new approaches that will raise the bar on safety in ride-sharing."
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