Uber Accused of Allowing Dangerous Criminals to Drive in Colorado
Uber’s parent company was fined $8.9 million by Colorado regulators for allowing potentially dangerous employees with serious motor vehicle offenses or criminal records to work as drivers. The Colorado Public Utilities Commission launched an investigation into the service back in March after a passenger claimed his driver assaulted him in the well-known resort town of Vail.
Over the past year and a half, the commission found that almost sixty drivers were allowed to work for Uber in the state of Colorado despite having dangerous felony convictions. Included on the list of offenders was a driver who was a habitual criminal, a former prison escapee, and others with major motor vehicle violations, including drunk driving. These are individuals who should have never been allowed to give rides to others.
Colorado state law prevents people with felony convictions, alcohol or drug-related driving offenses, unlawful sexual offenses and major traffic violations from working for ride-share companies. “We have determined that Uber had background check information that should have disqualified these drivers under the law, but they were allowed to drive anyway,” Public Utilities Commission Director Doug Dean said. “These actions put the safety of passengers in extreme jeopardy.”
In a statement, the commission said it also found dangerous felony convictions that Uber didn’t even catch in its employee background searches, and “in other cases, we could not confirm criminal background checks were even conducted by Uber,” officials stated.
Uber said that it recently discovered a “process error” that was inconsistent with Colorado’s ride-sharing regulations and affected what the company referred to as only a small number of drivers. It said it notified the state and fixed the problem.
“We recently discovered a process error that was inconsistent with Colorado’s ridesharing regulations and proactively notified the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (CPUC),” said Uber spokesperson Stephanie Sedlak. “This error affected a small number of drivers and we immediately took corrective action. Per Uber safety policies and Colorado state regulations, drivers with access to the Uber app must undergo a nationally accredited third-party background screening. We will continue to work closely with the CPUC to enable access to safe, reliable transportation options for all Coloradans.”
The penalty imposed on the ride-share provider’s parent company was calculated based on a $2,500 fine for each day an employee was illegally behind the wheel. This is the standard amount for such violations. The commission said Uber can pay half of that amount within ten days to resolve the case or its leaders can choose to schedule a hearing and contest the allegations in before a judge. It seems as if Uber has thus far admitted fault in the matter, though, so it will likely pay up and close the books.
In August, the PUC had also asked Lyft for records of all drivers who were accused, arrested or convicted of crimes that would disqualify them from driving for a transportation network. Uber’s competitor submitted the requested files. “Lyft gave us 15 to 20 (records), but we didn’t find any problems with Lyft,” Dean said of the comission’s findings.