Report on violence against rideshare drivers missing one crucial piece of information – Bearing Arms

Report on violence against rideshare drivers missing one crucial piece of information – Bearing Arms

We’ve covered incidents of both unarmed drivers being killed and armed drivers losing their jobs after protecting their life over the past few years, as well as what appears to be a growing number of carjackers and armed robbers specifically targeting rideshare drivers, and the Indianapolis Star has now weighed in with an investigation of its own highlighting the dangers that drivers face when they get behind the wheel and clock in for their job.

The group used publicly available information from news reports, police documents, legal filings and family accounts to compile its data.

In response to questions from IndyStar about driver concerns, Uber and Lyft provided information on safety measures the companies have in place.

Uber’s measures include an emergency 911 button, live help from a safety agent and check-ins to make sure drivers and riders are OK in a crash or unexpected long stop. Drivers can share their trip route in real-time with other people, and the company now has an extra verification for riders using anonymous forms of payment, such as a gift card. The company also conducted an audit of rider names during the past year and froze accounts with names that were clearly fake.

Lyft has similar safety measures in place, including on-call security professionals for drivers and check-ins on certain rides.

Cherri Murphy, a spokesperson for Gig Workers Rising and former rideshare driver, said these measures are not enough.

“Whether you are behind a desk or behind the wheel, everyone deserves safety, dignity and respect,” Murphy said. “It’s vital that we raise the alarm. Folks are getting hurt, or worse killed, without accountability from the companies and that’s the issue.”

In each of the past two years in Indianapolis, a rideshare driver has been killed in a shooting while on the job, police records show.

Besides the shooting that injured Batista, Indianapolis has seen at least three other instances where a rideshare driver was shot at and survived since 2018, according to police and media reports.

Most recently, a rideshare driver on the west side of the city was stabbed near the intersection of West 10th Street and North Whitcomb Avenue. Police are searching for three suspects after they stole the driver’s vehicle Monday and it was found on the other side of the city, according to IMPD.

Law enforcement in Indianapolis does not track data on shootings or other incidents specifically involving rideshare drivers. Neither do police departments in nearby cities, including Louisville, Chicago and Milwaukee.

Every two years, Uber releases a nationwide safety report. Its most recent report states there were nine physical-assault fatalities involving a person on an Uber trip in 2019, and 11 of those fatalities in 2020.
Lyft released its own safety report in 2021. It listed three fatal-physical assaults involving a person using Lyft in 2017 and 2018 each, and four of those fatalities in 2019.
Amazingly, the Indy Star never once mentions the fact that drivers are disarmed by company policy, even when they’re in their own vehicle. While that may not be a top priority for groups like Gig Workers Rising, personal protection is a key concern for many drivers themselves. As the newpaper report details, since Uber and Lyft drivers are considered contract employees, the companies don’t have to provide them with health care or workers compensation if they’re injured on the job, and the safety policies the companies have in place aren’t doing much at all to prevent attacks on drivers. But if the company finds out drivers are taking steps to lawfully protect themselves, they quickly find themselves cut loose by the companies. That’s what happened to Anita Smith, a Baltimore woman who was let go by Lyft last year after a passenger spotted Smith’s purple stun gun and reported it to the company.

And as soon as the company found out they kicked her to the curb.

These driver (and passenger) disarmament policies are an inherent part of any news report on the violence inflicted on Uber and Lyft contractors, but it was completely ignored by the Indianapolis Sta. The fact that in a few weeks there are going to be tens of thousands of gun owners and Second Amendment advocates coming to town for the NRA’s annual gathering gives the paper even more reason to delve into this particular aspect of the companies’ supposed safety policies, but they inexplicably excluded any mention of the fact that the drivers who are facing dangerous working conditions can’t even protect themselves without being fired.

I feel for rideshare drivers like Smith, but I don’t want to give a dime to the corporations that contract with drivers and deny them the ability to protect themselves while on the clock. If Uber and Lyft ever rescind their “no guns allowed” policies I’ll be happy to use their apps to get around when I need a ride and don’t have my own car available, but until that day comes I’ll continue to avoid them as much as I can, and I hope other gun owners do the same.

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