Representatives of Uber and Lyft told the King County Council this week that their drivers have to pass rigorous background checks. They spoke during a council briefing Monday, amid sexual assault charges against a ride share driver who is accused of raping a woman in a SeaTac hotel last month.
Before a driver is hired, their name and social security number are put through criminal databases, said Lyft spokesman Bryan Hockaday. And, he says, there are procedures if a complaint comes in after someone's hired.
“Whether it's, you know, them potentially driving intoxicated or an assault issue we immediately suspend that driver and that driver is not eligible to drive until that complaint has been substantiated," Hockaday said. "And if it has been substantiated, then that driver will be immediately banned from our platform.”
Uber spokesman Caleb Weaver touted his company's 600-person "trust and safety team." However, Weaver and Hockaday told the council they didn't know how many driver applicants had been turned down after the background check was completed.
Councilman Pete von Reichbauer asked what happens when someone makes it through the system who shouldn’t.
“It’s been alleged that in one of the incidents the person had the app off," Reichbauer said. "How do you deal with that kind of an issue when someone takes their app off and then still picks up people?”
Weaver responded that it’s one of the reasons the company is focusing on an education campaign for riders. He said riders should check the license plate number and the driver listed in the app before getting into the car.
There are 32,000 licensed ride share drivers in King County. While taxi drivers have to be fingerprinted, the same is not true for ride share drivers. Some council members suggested that requiring drivers to be fingerprinted before licensing them could make the system safer.