Uber: 3,000 sexual assaults reported in U.S. rides in 2018

Uber received 3,045 reports of sexual assault during U.S. rides in 2018, the company revealed in a wide-reaching safety report. The report comes as the ride-sharing company faces increased scrutiny over the safety of riders — and drivers — who use the app.

The safety report released Thursday detailed reported instances of sexual assault, fatal physical assault and motor vehicle fatalities during Uber rides over the past two years. Uber insisted in the 84-page report that during that time, there was an average of over 3.1 million trips occurred every day in America, with the “vast majority” of 99.9% ending without any safety issue.

In 2018, there were 235 reported incidents of rape — up from 229 the previous year. Instances of non-consensual touching of a sexual body part and non-consensual kissing of a non-sexual body part also increased from 2017 to 2018. Instances of attempted rape decreased from 307 reports in 2017 to 280 in 2018.

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While much of the discussion surrounding the company’s safety issues surrounds the security of the riders, Uber claims that drivers report assaults at approximately the same rate as riders across their five subcategories of sexual assault.  

“Confronting sexual violence requires honesty, and it’s only by shining a light on these issues that we can begin to provide clarity on something that touches every corner of society,” said Uber’s chief legal officer Tony West in a Thursday press release. “And, most importantly, by bringing hard data to bear, we can make every trip safer for drivers and riders alike.” 

Uber also revealed that 107 people died in 97 fatal crashes reported in relation to the Uber app over the past two years. Of the crashes, 65% were with one or more motor vehicles, 31% with a pedestrian or pedal cycle and 4% were listed as “other.” About 90% of Uber-related fatal crashes happened in urban areas. 

The numbers for fatal physical assaults were much lower, totaling 19 deaths in relation to the company over the course of two years. 

The report detailed additional steps the company has committed to take in order to improve safety for riders and drivers alike. Among the actions is a way to share names of drivers banned from Uber with other ridesharing companies, an Uber survivor support hotline and sexual misconduct education for all drivers.

The company also said it was rolling out new safety features, including an option that will allow passengers to verify their drivers with a secure PIN code and the ability to send text messages to 911 operators. In addition, West said Uber tripled the size of its safety team since 2017 — with over 300 employees dedicated to improving safety for the ridesharer. 

Uber said it is working with the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), as well over 200 “gender-based violence prevention experts,” law enforcement and road safety organizations to find new ways to “raise the bar” in ridesharing safety. 

“We appreciate Uber’s transparency in releasing data on sexual violence,” Erinn Robinson, RAINN press secretary, said in a statement. “This is an issue that affects every institution in America, and understanding the problem is an important step in the effort to solve it. We’d love to see organizations in every industry, including educational institutions, make a similar effort to track and analyze sexual misconduct within their communities.”

The new report comes as the ride-sharing industry at large faces scrutiny over passenger safety. There have been more than 500 allegations against Lyft and Uber between 2014 and 2018 for sexual assault, harassment, kidnapping and even death.

In September, more than a dozen women sued competitor Lyft alleging it mishandled reports of sexual assault. Just this month, nineteen women and one man filed a new lawsuit claiming Lyft puts riders in danger. The women are saying they were raped or sexually assaulted by Lyft drivers. Lyft says “safety is fundamental” adding it launched 14 new safety features this year. 

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