Uber and Lyft Sexual Violence Stats

Lyft and Uber, the two largest ride-sharing companies in the U.S., are also the fastest-growing form of public transit globally. These services use a smartphone app to connect passengers with drivers using their private vehicles. 

Although they’re touted as an easy, reliable, and safe form of transit, some people still wonder if ridesharing is safe. When stories about violence or sexual assault against a    driver or passenger hit the news, it can make passengers distinctly uneasy.

Each company proclaims strict hiring guidelines for all its drivers, who are legally designated as independent contractors. The apps themselves have features that allow passengers or drivers to contact emergency services discretely if they feel in danger. Still, even one sexual assault in an Uber or Lyft is too much.

With all the media attention to ridesharing sexual violence, it’s essential to shed light on the facts about Uber, Lyft, and sexual assault.

What is considered to be sexual assault?

Sexual assault is legally defined as any act of sexual conduct or sexual penetration. This can include asking for sexual favors, unwanted touching, attempted rape, or rape. 

Furthermore, sexual harassment is not uncommon for people using Uber or Lyft services. Sexual harassment includes unwanted sexual advances, comments of a sexual nature about a person’s body, masturbation, or unwanted conversations about sexual matters. 

In a passenger/driver situation, there is a form of power imbalance that can make it hard for the victim to simply leave the scene.

What makes ridesharing risky for sexual violence?

Being in another person’s vehicle can make passengers somewhat of a captive audience, because they may be unable to immediately flee an unsafe situation. While it’s always possible for a passenger to ask the driver to stop the car, they don’t have control of the vehicle.

For example, if a driver is on the highway and begins masturbating in front of the passenger, which is considered sexual harassment or assault, the passenger may not be able to have the car stopped immediately without putting themselves in physical danger. 

Although both Uber and Lyft claim to have thorough vetting protocols for hiring drivers, there is still an element of risk inherent to booking the services. Perhaps the driver of the vehicle isn’t the one to whom the car and rideshare account are registered, or perhaps there was negligence on the part of Uber or Lyft in the hiring process.

It’s not just the passengers at risk in a rideshare transaction. Drivers, too, carry the risk that their passengers may decide to harass or assault them sexually, including making untoward comments, masturbating, refusing to allow the passenger to leave, or attempting unwanted sexual touches. 

Drivers are also prevented from ending the service if they’re in a dangerous area, on the highway, or otherwise unable to stop the car and ask the passenger to leave.

Uber sexual violence statistics and facts

After a 2018 CNN report disclosed dozens of sexual violence crimes perpetrated by Uber drivers, the company began an exhaustive investigation and compiled a safety report, released in 2019.

The report revealed that Uber received 5,981 sexual violence or assault allegations in 2017 and 2018, 3,045 of which were in 2018. In the 2019 Uber Safety Report, the company noted that the sexual assaults (non-consensual sexual contact) fell into one of five categories:

Breaking this down by the numbers, in 2017:

Breaking this down by the numbers, in 2017:

Although some of these incidents were actions perpetrated by passengers against the driver, the overwhelming number of these were of drivers assaulting their passengers. In fact, according to a report from the New York Times, 92% of the sexual violence cases in 2017 and 2018 were of the driver against the passenger.

Lyft sexual violence statistics and facts

Lyft took longer to disclose the number of sexual harassment or sexual assault complaints related to its service. In fact, the company didn’t release a safety report until 2021 — two years after Uber did so, despite the company promising that the information was forthcoming. Like Uber, it breaks down sexual assault into five categories:

According to the report, Lyft collected data for three years based on information from Lyft passengers.

Sexual assault data from 2017:

Sexual assault data from 2018:

Sexual assault data from 2019:

The numbers for 2019 are especially worrisome, as it shows a marked increase in the number of crimes committed in each category. It’s important to note that in Lyft’s safety report, the numbers of each category of sexual assault only reflect driver-against passenger. The company has yet to disclose the number of assaults committed by Lyft passengers against drivers.

Rider safety initiatives from Uber and Lyft

After the 2019 safety report, Uber and Lyft both introduced new features intended to protect against harassment and violence. Uber now has a “panic” feature that riders can discreetly engage, alerting the company and local authorities of danger.

Uber also initiated the Industry Sharing Safety Program, a program for all ridesharing companies to exchange information about drivers who have been reported for harassment, or charged or convicted of assault, sexual harassment, or sexual assault. 

This program helps ridesharing companies be on the alert for drivers who may have been let go from another service and keep these individuals from being hired at other companies.

What should I do if I’ve been sexually assaulted by my Uber or Lyft driver?

Many people feel ashamed or frightened after a sexual assault. Often, these crimes go unreported, either because the victim may blame themselves or be fearful of retaliation from the driver. However, if you have been assaulted, it’s essential to hold the ridesharing services accountable. You deserve justice, and companies that fail to adequately protect their passengers need to be prevented from hurting anyone else.

If possible, have a friend or family member take you to a nearby hospital for an exam. If you disclose that you’ve been sexually assaulted, there are specific protocols enacted with dignity and as much privacy as possible to treat any injuries and collect evidence against your aggressor. 

Try not to shower or change clothing, as much as you would like to. Having support at this time is crucial, but if you have to go alone, often hospitals will have a counselor or chaplain on staff who can lend support if you wish.

Consulting with an attorney specializing in sexual assault cases is your next step if you choose to press charges against your assailant. They can help you file a complaint against Uber or Lyft and seek justice on your behalf.

Reducing the risk of sexual assault in rideshares

Many people, after they’ve experienced sexual assault, may question what they could have done to prevent the assault. The answer is that nothing you could have done prevents a sexual predator from attempting to commit sexual assault. You, as the victim, are not to blame.

There are a few safety tips that riders can use to reduce their risk for any type of assault, sexual or otherwise:

Travel with a buddy whenever possible

Always verify your car, comparing the make, model, license plate, and driver photo with the vehicle and individual

Text or call someone when you depart and when you arrive

Speak up if you feel uncomfortable and tell the driver to cease

Ask to end the ride

Call 911

That being said, Uber and Lyft have the responsibility to thoroughly screen their drivers, including conducting careful background checks and responding immediately to complaints of harassment or untoward actions by removing the drivers from service.

Healing from sexual violence

Healing after a sexual assault takes time and support. If you’ve been assaulted while using a rideshare service, understand that the incident was not your fault. Many victims benefit from professional counseling, both one-on-one or in a group setting. Having family and friends to support and protect you as you heal is important, too. 

If you’ve been a victim of sexual harassment or assault while utilizing ridesharing services, either as a passenger or a driver, you may wish to seek legal counsel, in addition to consulting with qualified sexual assault survivor support groups in your area.