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How are Uber and Lyft Drivers Vetted?

Explore the gaps and issues in current background checks and safety measures that may compromise rider safety. This page sheds light on the need for stricter standards and enhanced protections in the rideshare industry.

Survivor Advocate

Reviewed By: Melissa Reitberg

Uber Sexual Assault Attorney

Key Takeaways

  • Uber, Lyft, and other rideshare services typically run background checks on drivers
  • Background checks for employment often have laws that disable companies from seeing records older than seven years, even for sexual assault or domestic violence charges and convictions
  • This alongside other bad actor issues has created any opportunity for people to cause harm through rideshare apps. There is a vast need for improving safety measures and fixing background check laws
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Why Uber and Lyft Background Check Drivers

The rideshare market took the concept of hailing a cab and made it easier, faster, and more affordable. Now, nearly fifteen years after Uber first launched, the rideshare market has proliferated globally with over fifteen million rideshare rides taking place daily.

Uber and Lyft make up a majority of the rideshare market and to put their popularity into perspective, Uber commands 68% of the rideshare market, while Lyft maintains 32%. At the end of 2021, Uber had 118 million active platform consumers. During the fourth quarter of 2021 alone, nearly 1.8 billion rides were completed by drivers working for Uber. Clearly, there is a big demand for rideshare services in the United States and around the world.

While the ridesharing industry scaled, so did the harm.

According to Uber’s second US Safety Report, they reported over 3,824 reports of sexual assault and misconduct from 2019 through 2020. Lyft’s Community Safety report concluded that 4,158 sexual assaults occurred between 2017 and 2019.

Over the years, many experts, advocates, and survivors have called for ridesharing platforms to do more to protect their users. There are a number of existing claims against Uber and Lyft for their driver-vetting process. For example, a 2016 lawsuit indicated that both companies used low-cost background checking services to perform due diligence on their drivers. The background check companies failed to access databases with complete criminal histories during the vetting process, leading to 25 drivers being hired who had prior arrest records for offenses that should have denied them from becoming a driver.

After pressure by the media and regulators, we have seen Uber and Lyft further invest in trust and safety features and partnerships. Uber has introduced a number of new features designed to improve safety. These include an in-app Emergency button and more thorough background checks for its drivers. However, critics believe both companies could still do more to limit the potential for sexual assault by improving the vetting process for their drivers before becoming a driver and while they remain a driver for the services.

Last Date Modified
May 24, 2024

Top Criticisms and Issues with Rideshare Driver Background Checks

Background checks related to credit and employment are regulated by the Fair Credit Report Act, which has its pros and cons. While it ensures that people have a second chance after having a criminal record, these laws also mean that employers and others can not typically look at convictions, even for violent offenses, more than 7 years ago and many jurisdictions do not allow arrest records to be used on FCRA-regulated background checks.

Each jurisdiction across the United States has their own standards and regulations around background checks, which creates immense reporting discrepancies across each state. For example, Michigan is increasingly redacting information from criminal records, making it hard to pinpoint records associated with someone if they have a common name. Another example is New York, where each search costs $95 — which has resulted in both Uber and Lyft performing continuous monitoring and at least yearly background checks in every state besides New York.

Additionally, background checks often only look in the counties someone has been identified as previously living in and the companies will typically not pay additional fees to run other known names such as if someone changed their first or last name.

This means there are a lot of failings and holes in background checks, which have allowed offenders with violent convictions and arrest records to be hired. Beyond the problems with background checks and public records, most gender-based violence offenders will not have a record as RAINN has found that only 25 out of 1000 rapists will be convicted — that is only 2.5% of offenders having a record that could be found in a background check.

Sexual assault claims have continued to mount over the years for Uber and Lyft. In California, one woman was assaulted on an empty beach, while another was attacked in an alley behind a bar in Colorado. A woman in Georgia was sexually assaulted and beaten and then stalked for months to prevent her from reporting the assault.

Despite these cases, both Uber and Lyft have held back on making significant changes to their business operations, such as requiring that cars be equipped with cameras, audio equipment, and an emergency button similar to those used by New York City taxis.

In one extreme case, an accused terrorist passed a background check for both Uber and Lyft, allowing him to make over 1,500 trips using their services. He had received traffic citations in the past, but they were not disqualifying based on the criteria used by either rideshare company or by the local and state laws of New Jersey. He allegedly killed 8 people by intentionally driving a rented pickup truck down a busy bike path in Manhattan.

There are a lot of valid safety concerns voiced by critics of the rideshare companies around background check processes. In addition, forward-thinking safety features should continually be added to the app and monitored for their effectiveness and Uber should be required to meet with NGOs and donate a certain percentage of revenue towards causes that help victims who are harmed on their services.

What are the Requirements to Become an Uber Driver?

Uber has put into place a variety of basic requirements to become a driver on its rideshare platform. The criteria were established to help Uber weed out drivers with criminal histories or significant moving vehicle infractions.

Requirements to become an Uber driver include:

Driver Must Be Over 21

Uber requires its drivers to be over the age of 21. If the driver is 25 years old or younger, they must have at least three years of driving experience in the U.S. This requirement was enacted to help ensure drivers have the experience necessary to operate their vehicles safely.

Pass Background Checks

Those who apply to be a driver must pass an initial vehicle and criminal background screening. These checks ensure that drivers do not have significant moving violations, impaired driving, or charges for violent crime on their record. An ongoing criminal background and driving history check are maintained while the driver is active on the platform.

Annual Driving and Background Check

In addition to the initial and ongoing background checks performed, each driver is subject to a more thorough screening process annually. Uber requires an updated criminal history check and driving infraction review. This ensures drivers remain compliant as they continue to offer rideshare services.

Random Identity

Uber asks drivers to perform random identity checks when operating their vehicles. These checks require independent contractors to take a photograph of themselves while offering their services. The photographs are run against a database to ensure the driver is the same individual who initially signed up to drive with Uber.

Enforced Community Guidelines

Each driver must abide by the community guidelines established by Uber. These guidelines ensure that local, state, and federal laws are followed. They promote safety and positive interactions between drivers and their passengers.

Safe Vehicle

The company follows local guidelines to ensure its vehicles meet legal regulations. Common local laws may include regular vehicle inspections to ensure the vehicle is operating safely. Uber doesn’t interview drivers before they’re hired.

Encouraging Feedback

Both drivers and passengers are encouraged to provide feedback on their trip experience. This allows Uber to review comments and follow up when negative comments are submitted. If ratings drop below a certain average, a driver may be banned from using the platform.

What are the Requirements to Become a Lyft Driver?

Similar to Uber, Lyft has a set of criteria that it uses to verify drivers before allowing them on the platform. Each of these requirements was designed to help keep the platform safe. Criteria include:

Requirements to become an Lyft driver include:

Minimum Driver Age of 21

The minimum age that a driver may sign up with the Lyft platform is 21 years old. However, the minimum age to become a driver differs by region. In some cases, drivers must be at least 25 years old.

Pass a Background Check

Lyft conducts a criminal background check as part of the application process. To perform the check, drivers must provide their Social Security number. To pass the screening, drivers must not have been convicted of a violent crime or be listed on the National Sex Offender Registry database.

Undergo a DMV Check

All Lyft drivers must pass a DMV screening. The check is run by a third-party company, Safety Holdings Inc. Any applicants who have serious driving or drug-related infractions will be disqualified from driving on the Lyft platform.

Up-to-Date Documents

Lyft drivers must have a current and valid driver’s license as well as license plates with current registration. A valid insurance policy in the name of the driver must be provided. If the policy is in someone else’s name, a declaration from the insurance company will be required.

What disqualifies Someone from Being an Uber or Lyft Driver?

Both Uber and Lyft disqualify drivers who do not meet their criminal background check standards. These standards are in place to ensure that drivers are safe and don’t have a history of criminal activities or poor driving records.

While the checks can help ensure that drivers meet specific standards, critics still believe more could be done by both companies to improve passenger safety.

Uber Driver Disqualifications

Uber has put into place a variety of basic requirements to become a driver on its rideshare platform. The criteria were established to help Uber weed out drivers with criminal histories or significant moving vehicle infractions.

  • Major driving violations
  • Multiple minor driving violations
  • Murder
  • Sexual assault
  • Terrorism-related offenses
  • Felonies
  • Registered sex offender status
  • Violent crimes
  • Sexual offenses

Any pending charges on a criminal or driving record related to the above will prevent a potential driver from registering on the platform until the case is resolved, and in some cases, permanently.

Lyft Driver Disqualifications

Similar to Uber, Lyft has a set of criteria that it uses to verify drivers before allowing them on the platform. Each of these requirements was designed to help keep the platform safe.

  • Registered sex offender status
  • Disqualifying violent crime
  • Sexual offense
  • Act of terror
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in the past seven years
  • Fraud-related offenses
  • Drug-related offenses
  • Theft or property damage offense in the past seven years
  • Major driving infractions, such as DUI, hit-and-run, or felony involving a vehicle

If a driver has any of these items on their criminal background check, they will not be able to drive for Lyft.

How Comprehensive are Background Checks in the United States?

Uber and Lyft use the third-party background check companies including Checkr, HireRight, and SambaSafety along with potentially other providers they are not as public about. However, despite efforts of both companies, there have been many instances where background checks have not caught prior offenders. Because of this, many lawsuits have been initiated against both companies for incorrect background checks.

In some cases, the background check completely missed driving infractions or arrest records, allowing known dangerous individuals to become drivers. In other cases, individuals were refused from the platform because the background check picked up incorrect information showing they had been convicted for crimes committed by other individuals.

This is because of the vast problems with public records and how background checks are conducted today

Problems with FCRA Background Checks:

  • Pricing and Packaging Incentivize Choosing the Cheapest Option – Background check companies offer various pricing and packaging options, and often, the incentive is to choose the least expensive one. This choice may compromise the thoroughness and reliability of the information obtained, potentially overlooking critical data points.
  • Typical Searches Limit Name Search to Only the Name Provided – Background check companies usually only search the name provided, neglecting to search maiden names or names changed due to marriage, divorce, or other legal processes. This limitation can result in a lack of comprehensive data and potential oversight of crucial information related to criminal history.
  • Omission of Federal Records: Not Accessing PACER without Additional Fee – Federal records stored in PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) are typically not accessed or included in standard background checks without an additional fee. This omission can lead to a lack of essential information regarding an individual’s federal offenses or litigations.
  • Limited Geographic Search to Only Counties of Residence, Sometimes Only Current County – Background checks often only explore records in the counties where an individual has resided, and sometimes only in the county where the individual currently resides. This limitation may result in overlooked information from other jurisdictions where the individual may have committed offenses.
  • Jurisdictional Limitations Often Restrict Access to Information – Background check companies face severe restrictions in every jurisdiction regarding the kind of information they can access and provide due to the FCRA and state laws. These limitations can prevent the revelation of important legal information and criminal history that would be vital for a comprehensive vetting process.

A majority of background check providers like Checkr, HireRight, and Sterling offer different levels of background checks. Both Uber and Lyft do not reveal what level of background check they do, but these pricing models and packages incentivize companies to purchase the lowest priced package.

The vetting process for both ridesharing companies must be improved to ensure that known offenders aren’t missed and records and reports don’t fall through the cracks. Rideshare companies have a duty to protect customers from drivers with criminal or poor driving histories.

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