Features » Christopher Dolan

Rideshare safety standards nonexistent

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This is the final installment of a series on on-demand rideshare services such as Lyft and Sidecar. Here is a comparison of some critical safety issues between taxi services and rideshare services.

I want to make it clear, I have no disagreement with someone trying to make a buck or find a new green transportation system. I have a real problem with a corporation disguising itself as an app, taking 20 percent and then leaving everyone hanging while it goes off smiling to the bank.

Most taxi drivers are, by law, employees, therefore making the taxi company liable for any injury or harm caused while they are operating in the scope and course of their employment. Taxi drivers are covered by workers' compensation, which provides for medical coverage and wage-loss reimbursement if a driver is injured while working.

If you are a Lyft or Sidecar driver and get injured, you have no protection. Your car may be totaled, you may be in the hospital and unable to work, you may have no financial assistance during the period of your injury, your insurance company may dump you, and you may get sued and lose everything. Bleak, I know, but life is harsh.

Limousine, jitney and taxi services engage in a pull-notice program that is administered by the California Department of Motor Vehicles. It provides employers and regulatory agencies with a means of promoting driver safety through the ongoing review of driver records (generally every six months).

Rideshare companies, by the nature of their attempts to distance themselves from their drivers, do not.

Taxis can't refuse any prospective passenger in any place within The City for transportation to any other place in The City, or to or from the San Francisco International Airport, or to the Oakland International Airport, at rates authorized by law if the prospective passengers present themselves for transportation in a clean, coherent, safe and orderly manner. Lyft drivers can discriminate on the basis of race, disability, etc.

All taxis are inspected by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, or its designee, every six months if they are used as spare vehicles or have 200,000 miles or more on the odometer, and every 12 months for regular vehicles. At the time of inspection, the driver must present a valid registration and a valid brake certificate issued by an official inspection station, certified by the state within 60 days prior to inspection. Rideshare vehicles are not required to undergo inspection by any government entity. You just have to trust that the car remains in good shape.

Taxi drivers must undergo 16 hours of driver education offered by the Police Department or any educational institution that the police may approve on the following subjects: crime prevention, vehicular safety, the geography of San Francisco, taxicab regulations, the California Motor Vehicle Code and pedestrian safety. Rideshare services do not provide any such education.

I hope this series has been helpful to prospective drivers and passengers.

You passengers will have to decide for yourselves whether forgoing your constitutional rights, liability protection and potentially safety is worth a fist-bump and a ride across town in a ridiculous-looking pink-mustachioed car.

To you drivers, do you want to put yourselves at risk of losing everything — your lives, your car, your health, your income, all so that you can give 20 percent to a company that will run from you if you are in an accident?

I have learned a lot writing these three columns and I have undertaken some effort to become a part of the California Public Utilities Commission regulations process to try and offer protection to passengers and drivers. In the meantime, if you see a guy being chased by a pink mustache, that probably will be me!

Christopher B. Dolan is owner of the Dolan Law Firm. Email questions to help@dolanlawfirm.com.