8,000 Uber, Lyft Drivers Fail Massachusetts Background Check

By Rakesh Sharma | April 6, 2017 — 4:44 PM EDT

About 11.5 percent (or, 8,206 of the total 71,000) of drivers for Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft who passed background checks conducted by the ride-sharing apps have been barred from driving for the services after they failed a state government criminal and driving records check in Massachusetts.

Of the drivers, 403 had serious offenses such as violence or sexual assaults on their records. The remaining had driving-related infractions, such as speeding tickets or driving under the influence. Drivers whose cases had been dismissed without convictions were also barred from driving for ride-sharing apps. (See also: The Story of Uber.)

A key point to consider regarding the disqualification is the time period under scrutiny. Uber and Lyft both said the law stipulates that they restrict background checks to just seven years, and that is why the companies were unable to uncover the drivers' past histories. State government agencies peruse longer time spans for serious offenses.

Uber represented the state government's longer time period as a loss of "access to economic opportunities" due to an "unfair and unjust indefinite lookback period." It also stated that this was an opportunity to repair the current system. However, the Mayor of Everett, a town in Massachusetts where two sexual assault cases involving Uber drivers were reported, said the release of state records showed that there was a need for government regulations for such services. (See also: Key Differences Between Uber and Lyft.)

While there have been no reported cases of sexual assault for Lyft, Uber has been the subject of multiple lawsuits by women who have been sexually assaulted or raped by their drivers. Last year, the company also paid $28.5 million to settle a federal class-action lawsuit brought by six men who claimed that Uber was misleading riders by claiming to provide an "industry-leading background check."

The latest news is sure to add pressure on ride-sharing apps to add more comprehensive background checks. Otherwise, they might find their market share being taken away by niche apps. For example, Safr, an Uber for women, was released recently to serve Boston and surrounding areas. (See also: Safr Is an Uber for Women.)

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