All Island Blog

Proposition 1 Fails: Stronger Background Checks for Uber and Lyft

Posted by Nick on May 20, 2016, 9:26:39 AM

proposition 1

Recently in Austin, Texas, there was a public vote on a piece of legislation that would effectively excuse popular transportation network companies (TNCs), Uber and Lyft, from conducting fingerprint-based background checks on their drivers. In a huge victory for the city, the legislation, entitled Proposition 1, was struck down, prompting the departure of the TNCs from Austin.

What is Proposition 1?

In December of 2015, the Austin City Council, concerned with the safety of its citizens, passed an ordinance that required drivers for TNCs to undergo fingerprint-based background checks before driving. Prior to that, TNCs conducted only shallow, name-based background checks. In January, TNCs submitted a petition to the local government, requesting that a public vote be held on an ordinance of their own.

Proposition 1 was the name of the TNC-sponsored ordinance. Essentially, this piece of legislation would allow TNCs to proceed with their unsafe methods of background checking their employees. In fact, they were so unsafe that a 2015 peer-reviewed study conducted by a team of law enforcement experts determined that name-based checks are a staggering 43 times more likely to have errors than fingerprint-based checks. 

The Outcome

Despite spending around $8 million campaigning for the passage of Proposition 1, the TNCs lost by a 56 percent margin, causing them to cease doing business in Austin.

The outcome does not ban TNCs from the city, it only requires them to fingerprint their drivers. Still, the TNCs left, in spite of encouraging words from Steve Adler, the Mayor of Austin: “Uber and Lyft are welcome to stay in Austin, and I invite them to the table regardless.”

Proposition 1

Why This All Matters

The withdrawal of the TNCs from the city suggests dishonesty on their part. Instead of simply complying with the law and administering fingerprint-based checks, which would only cost them about $40 more per driver, they elected to terminate their business relationship with the city of Austin entirely.

Considering the number of TNC drivers linked to criminal activity both before and during their stints with TNCs, it is, from a business standpoint, perhaps unsurprising that Uber and Lyft refused to conduct thorough background checks. After all, the more applicants turned away, the fewer drivers—which means less business. However, the fact remains: by not properly screening their drivers, TNCs regularly place their passengers in jeopardy.

The Solution

In addition to conducting adequate background checks, local taxi companies are far more likely to meet and interview their drivers in person. On the other hand, TNCs often do not even meet their applicants face to face, and interviews are conducted remotely—if at all. Locally based taxi companies hire drivers they would feel comfortable allowing to drive on the same roads that their friends and families drive on, not faceless names that aren’t even background checked.

It isn’t worth jeopardizing the safety of yourself or loved ones for the sake of a convenient car-hailing app. The best way to ensure safe transportation is to use a company that prioritizes security above all else.

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