Uber, Lyft drivers will now have to complete a full criminal background check

New laws will require ride-share companies to conduct more extensive background checks. (Sept. 28, 2016)

How safe do you feel riding in an Uber?

People who use ride-sharing apps trust drivers to take them to their destinations safely. Although the vast majority of rides are completed with no issues- there are reports of passengers running into some dangerous situations with their drivers.

In 2014, a 35-year-old man in San Francisco was attacked by his Uber driver with a hammer.

This year, a man was arrested in Chicago for operating as an Uber driver while possessing marijuana and an unlicensed loaded firearm. The man had two prior felony convictions, both of which were weapons-related, in 1995 and 2003, according to officials. Another driver was arrested in Palo Alto and charged with sexual assault after making advances at a female passenger and refusing to let her out of the car.

One of the most severe cases happened in 2013, when an Uber driver hit and killed a 6-year-old girl with an SUV while looking at his phone, as she used a crosswalk to cross the street with her family in San Francisco.

Today, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill requiring all ride-sharing services to complete full criminal background checks for their drivers. The bill was written by Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove).

He told ABC10, he uses Uber too and he's 'ecstatic' about the bill being passed.

"We have to make sure drivers driving passengers around are safe drivers," Cooper said. "Those drivers pick you up from your home."

Currently, the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC), which regulates ride-sharing services, doesn't require a full background check. A driver's history is only checked back seven years.

The new bill will require ride-sharing services to check all local, state, and federal law enforcement documents when hiring a driver. If a driver is a registered sex offender, or has been convicted of a violent crime, assault or DUI, the bill prohibits the company from hiring that driver, according to a statement from Cooper's office.

"Public safety is paramount," Cooper said.

The bill will hold companies accountable by fining them $5,000 for hiring a driver with any offenses, Cooper said.

The bill applies to all current and future drivers.

Ride-sharing apps like Uber, as well as Lyft, have received a lot of heat for their safety terms and conditions in the less than 10 years they've been in business.

Uber clearly states, the company is not liable for any damages regarding personal injury or safety if a passenger chooses to use the app. 

Lyft's terms and conditions aren't much different.

The company isn't liable for bodily injury, emotional distress, discomfort, or even death, according to the Lyft website.

What this means, is that the ride-sharing apps are protected against any responsibilities connected to their passengers' safety.

Although neither company has announced any changes in their terms and conditions, the new bill aims to weed out dangerous drivers.

Uber spokesperson, Eva Behrend, said that although the company already checks for sex offenders, the new bill gives clear direction on driver screening. Ride-sharing companies- formally known as Transportation Network Companies (TNCs)- now have to follow specific rules. The lifetime criminal background checks will particularly look for convictions of murder and rape, according to Behrend.

"[Transportation Network Companies] now have set guidelines and regulations," Behrend said.

What if a currently employed driver is found to have a prohibited offense after being screened under the new bill?

"We're still seeking clarification from the bill on what exactly it signifies in that respect," Behrend said.

The bill will take effect on January 1, 2017. 

Copyright 2016 KXTV


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