Maybe it's the easy booking interface, or the amenity-packed ride experience, or the fact that you never have to bust out a credit card: But whatever the reason, these days it's easy to just hop in an Uber and go without ever giving a thought to who's behind the wheel. It turns out, not considering could be a huge mistake.
Earlier this month, four male Uber drivers received tickets from the Los Angeles International Airport Police. Each of the men had criminal convictions that would have kept him from getting a Los Angeles taxi permit, but these offenses were apparently missed during the Uber screening process. Between them, the four had been convicted of child exploitation, identity theft, manslaughter, and driving under the influence, according to court records obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
The criminal convictions were discovered when a taxi-industry representative shared a binder with a city official that contained court records for eight Uber drivers, the four men among them, who received citations at the airport during the past 18 months.
Refinery29 obtained a statement from Uber via email this morning about its driver hiring practices. "As we reported in a blog post last month, in 2014 at least 600 people who identified themselves as taxi drivers when signing up to use Uber in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego failed our background check for crimes ranging from sexual offenses, DUIs, and assault," said spokesperson Eva Behrend. "While no system is 100%, we believe our background checks stack up well against others."
This isn't the first time an Uber driver has made headlines with criminal activity: Last winter, a driver in Boston was charged with sexual assault, battery, and the kidnapping of a young woman. Nor is it likely to be the last. As Uber territory continues to expand, the chance of a sketchy driver slipping under the radar only goes up. That's not the company's fault: It's just statistics.
But for everyone out there who forgets that there are real, live, fallible humans behind the Uber wheel, let the four drivers in Los Angeles serve as a reminder: You never know who's driving.