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Women are having #MeToo issues with their Uber and Lyft drivers, survey says

Nearly one in four women who rode in an Uber vehicle had an uncomfortable encounter with the driver, according to a recently released survey.
Nearly one in four women who rode in an Uber vehicle had an uncomfortable encounter with the driver, according to a recently released survey.

Uber’s problems with the #MeToo movement aren’t just limited to the corporate office environment.

Apparently, there’s plenty of unwanted sexual advances on the streets, too.

Nearly one of four women who rode in an Uber vehicle — 23 percent — had an uncomfortable encounter with the driver, according to a recently released survey by the National Council for Home Safety and Security. The trade group represents companies that sell security devices and services, and operates a website, alarms.org.

The encounters included a range of behaviors, including driver’s hitting on their customers, calling or texting them after the ride was over and in some cases physically assaulting them.

The survey was based on interviews with 500 women across the United States on Oct. 23 by the polling company Pollfish.

Also, the survey found that 15 percent of women had an uncomfortable encounter with a driver for Lyft, which is Uber’s main competitor.

“When asked about safety precautions, women told us the tactics they use. Some said they always tell a friend or family member they’re taking an Uber or Lyft,” a narrative of the survey results said. “Others only take rides if someone is joining them. Another precaution was scrutinizing the driver’s profile and reviews. One woman carries a gun.”

Uber says since May it has been working to improve rider safety and end sexual harassment and violence, a company official said.

“Since our new leadership made safety the top company priority, we’ve been putting it at the heart of everything we do,” Travis Considine, Uber spokesman in Texas, said in an email. “When it comes to sexual misconduct and assault: we want to confront it, count it, and work together to end it.”

Lyft officials said they had designed features to enhance rider safety, including in-app photos of the driver and vehicle, real-time ride tracking, digital receipts and two-way rating systems. The company also conducts “professionally administered criminal background checks” on drivers, according to a company statement.

Sixty percent of Lyft riders and 30 percent of drivers are women, the company said.

Considine said Uber has strengthened background checks for drivers and begun continuously monitoring those background resources. The company also added an emergency button to its phone app, so a customer could call for help if a bad situation arises during a ride, and brought in new advisors to ensure that other safeguards aren’t overlooked.

Last year, Uber Technologies Inc. chief executive Travis Kalanick resigned under pressure from investors after a series of scandals at the San Francisco-based company. One of the incidents involved former Uber engineer Susan Fowler, who came forward to disclose that she had been sexually harassed by a manager and threatened with termination by another manager if she didn’t keep quiet about it.

Eric Holder, former U.S. attorney general, and Ariana Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post publication, were among those brought in to investigate the matters.

Just last month, Uber’s corporate development leader, Cameron Poetzscher, resigned after allegations of prior sexual misconduct surfaced.

Uber’s new chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, has vowed to straighten up the company’s reckless culture, including sexism and sexual harassment.

With the increase in the popularity of ride companies Uber and Lyft, as well as the decline of taxi business, DFW Airport terminal curbside drop off and pickup rules will soon change.

Gordon Dickson: 817-390-7796; @gdickson
Gordon Dickson joined the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 1997. He is passionate about hard news reporting, and his beats include transportation, growth, urban planning, aviation, real estate, jobs, business trends. He is originally from El Paso, and loves food, soccer and long drives.
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