Ride-sharing services are becoming an ever-larger part of the urban experience in Illinois and across the country. The nation’s two largest companies, Uber and Lyft, are now household names. And the business model of hiring regular car owners to drive commercially in their own vehicles has largely disrupted both traditional taxi services and public transportation.
Unfortunately, this radical change in how we get around has come with significant problems related to insurance coverage, driver/passenger safety and legal liability for accidents. And recently, the group Consumer Reports identified another issue impacting a significant portion of ride-sharing vehicles: Open safety recalls.
Consumer reports analyzed data on Uber and Lyft drivers in two major metropolitan areas (New York and Seattle), chosen because they require drivers to register their vehicles when working as ride-sharing drivers. In all, the group looked at records for about 94,000 vehicles and found that nearly one in six had unaddressed safety defects. That means the cars had been recalled for at least one safety problem, but the drivers had not yet responded to the recall notice.
It should be noted that these problems were not minor. They included potential engine failure, seat belt detachment, dangerous Takata airbags and more. Some vehicles contained numerous safety recalls that had yet to be addressed.
Assuming that one of these vehicles ever got into an accident caused or exacerbated by an unheeded recall, the driver could face personal liability for knowingly using a dangerous vehicle to transport passengers commercially. Moreover, Uber and Lyft could face additional liability for not doing more to ensure that drivers who failed to respond to recalls were taken out of service.
Traditional taxis may be more expensive than a ride-sharing service, but you can be sure that cab companies take recall notices seriously. They simply can’t afford the liability that would come from failing to address a safety issue. Shouldn’t we be holding ride-sharing services and drivers to the same standards?