Safety First: New Uber Policies Protect Riders

Uber is a college kid’s best friend. Cheaper than a cab and way faster than the T, Uber gets us where we need to go in a clean car that we don’t have to worry about digging out of the snow. The driving service is dedicated to providing positive experiences for all riders, which is why, in light of recent safety concerns, Uber Boston has revamped its safety policies to ensure the security of its customers.

Photo courtesy of Uber / Facebook

Photo courtesy of Uber / Facebook

Although Uber already had extensive background checks and safety measures in place so that, as Jeremy Warnick, a Cambridge police spokesman, said, “You know what particular car is coming to pick you up and when you’re going to be picked up,” four separate incidents of sexual assault by male drivers on female customers have come out of Cambridge in the last few months. These reports raised some red flags and created a need for Uber to heighten its safety policies, and from this came some new precautionary measures, the first of which being a “safe ride checklist” that pops up upon opening the Uber app. The popup advises riders to check that the license plate number, driver’s name, and driver’s picture displayed in the driver’s profile in the app matches the driver and car when it arrives. In addition, it welcomes riders to contact Uber with any questions or concerns.

“We’ve brought unprecedented accountability to our platform, and strive to bring the same to background checks through scientific analysis and technology,” Meghan Joyce, Uber Boston general manager Meghan Joyce said to the Boston Herald.

The company has also decided to disperse Uber placards to drivers to clearly mark each Uber vehicle and reduce the risk of “rogue drivers,” or drivers not certified through Uber who pose as Uber employees, picking up riders.

“No one should hail or get into any vehicle on the street that is not a clearly identifiable pre-arranged transportation provider or licensed taxi,” said Taylor Bennett, Uber spokesman. “And that’s why Uber has safeguards built right into the app that bring additional layers of safety and security to getting a ride in Boston."

In addition to company-wide advancements, Governor Deval Patrick is trying to initiate a proposal to provide state oversight of ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft, and have them regulated by the State Department of Public Utilities. New, stricter background checks, which would include fingerprint tests and other advancements dedicated to monitoring the services and making them safer for passengers, are of significant importance to Massachusetts lawmakers, and they hope to have them implemented as soon as possible. “Our first priority…is making sure that the public that’s utilizing any of our transportation modes in the Commonwealth [is] safe,” said Cyndi Roy Gonzalez, a MassDOT spokeswoman, to the Boston Globe.