More than 3,000 people were sexually assaulted during Uber rides last year.
The disturbing numbers, released by the company on Thursday, have many concerned about the safety of using Uber and other rideshare apps — especially since the data came out the same week that 19 women sued Lyft, saying drivers for the company sexually assaulted them.
But it’s not just passengers who are being assaulted. According to Uber’s data, 42 percent of those reporting sexual assault were drivers. “Drivers are assaulted as much as the passengers are,” Michael Bomberger, an attorney who represents the women suing Lyft, told Vox.
Passengers may be more vulnerable to certain types of assault. For example, Bomberger said he has heard from multiple riders who fell asleep in an Uber or Lyft and woke up to find a driver attacking them. And 92 percent of people who experienced sexual assault involving penetration were passengers, according to reports to Uber.
But drivers — especially the roughly 19 percent of Uber drivers and 30 percent of Lyft drivers who are women — often report being groped by passengers, Bomberger said. And since they are independent contractors for gig-economy companies, they lack some of the protections available to taxi drivers and other workers, like partitions separating them from passengers.
Passengers aren’t the only ones being assaulted during Uber rides. Drivers are also in harm’s way.
Uber released its first-ever United States safety report on Thursday, detailing sexual assaults, killings, and accidents on its platform. According to the report, 3,045 sexual assaults were reported during Uber rides last year, along with 9 murders and 58 people killed in crashes.
Uber and Lyft drivers lack protections that could keep them safe from assault
For drivers in particular, the Uber report raises issues of workers’ rights and safety.
Commercial drivers in general, whether they drive for a cab or ride-share company, face a high risk of physical and sexual assault, as Lauren Kaori Gurley reported at Motherboard earlier this year. There is no nationwide data on sexual assaults against taxi drivers, but drivers are 20 times more likely to be murdered on the job than other workers, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
However, Uber and Lyft drivers may be more likely to face assault than taxi drivers for a few reasons, Gurley reports. For one thing, they are more likely to be female — in New York City in 2016, just 1 percent of Yellow Cab drivers were women, compared with 19 percent of Uber drivers and 30 percent of Lyft drivers nationwide. While people of all genders experience sexual assault, women are more likely than men to be assaulted.
For taxi drivers at least, some cities have instituted regulations to help keep them safer — like bulletproof partitions to protect passengers and drivers, or surveillance cameras to record and deter crimes, Gurley notes. But Uber and Lyft generally provide neither to their drivers, though Uber is piloting audio and video recording in some places.