UBER

Lyft Cut Corners on Driver Background Checks, Puts Profits into Marketing Late Night Beer to Riders

Lyft claims safety is its top priority, but its actions indicate otherwise.

Rather than invest in more rigorous background checks for its drivers, America’s second largest ridesharing company announced that it is rolling out a promotional new beer. The beer, “Five Star Lager,” is named after the company’s rating system and is intended to convince bargoers to ride home with Lyft.

As reported in the Chicago Tribune, Lyft’s Midwest General Manager stressed that this promotion was part of the company’s strategy to understand the psychology of “how” and “when” riders decide to get back home. Beer, he stated, seemed like “just the tool to help” understand these choices.

Marketing is a part of business, but when a company specifically targets late night riders who have been drinking, it has an obligation to make sure that the people transporting these riders are not dangerous. The numbers demonstrate that Lyft does not take this responsibility to late night riders seriously. According to whosdrivingyou.org, at the announcement of its beer promotion, drivers for Lyft and other ride-sharing companies have allegedly perpetrated 346 sexual assaults, 89 assaults, 15 kidnappings, and have been responsible for 46 deaths.

Unlike alcohol promotions geared at increasing market share, stringent background checks are a proven tool that keeps riders safe. Nonetheless, Lyft does not fingerprint background check its drivers and only checks for crimes committed within the last seven years. As a result, people with a violent criminal history can, and often do, pass the background screening process.

In the absence of more stringent screening, there are options available for passengers seeking to take steps to protect themselves. Companies like the Chicago personal security device startup, Guard Llama, allow passengers to use a phone app or key fob to share their GPS location with law enforcement personnel or family and friends at the push of a button.

In light of the dangers posed to its customers, perhaps Lyft should focus on conducting “Five Star” background checks instead of making “Five Star” beers.