After the recent death of a young Florida girl, it is essential to remind ourselves that it is against Uber’s Terms of Service to give a ride to Uber riders who are unaccompanied minors. Lyft also prohibits unaccompanied minors.
In January, a 12-year-old girl downloaded the Uber app using a gift card she had received for Christmas. She called for an Uber in the middle of the night while her parents slept. The driver, not following Uber’s Terms of Service, gave the child a ride to a deserted parking garage in Orlando, Florida where the little girl climbed to the top of the garage and jumped to her death.
It is not the Uber driver’s fault the young girl died. If he had followed the company’s policy, however, he would not be involved in a rather messy matter. While it is not against the law to pick up Uber riders who are unaccompanied minors, it is against Uber’s Terms of Services. His poor judgment in picking up the unaccompanied minor — not to mention dropping her off in the middle of the night at a deserted parking garage — contributed to her death that early morning.
Risks in Picking Up Uber Riders who are Unaccompanied Minors
Although a situation as serious as this one is not the norm when giving rides to unaccompanied minors, the driver could be taking huge risks. Should an accident occur with an unaccompanied minor on board, Uber’s insurance will not cover the driver. There are also other scenarios that could turn out badly for the driver. I have heard stories of runaways using Uber and getting caught up in sex trafficking.
Other less dramatic risks can happen as well. If an unaccompanied minor damages your vehicle in any way, Uber would not be responsible for collecting a fee for the damage.
Why Do Drivers Pick Up Unaccompanied Minors
Failure to Read the Terms of Service
The difficulty in this situation comes from several places. One of the biggest reasons drivers pick up Uber riders who are unaccompanied minors is because they did not read the full Terms of Services. This should have been your priority on your list of things to do when starting your rideshare business. But, how many of us have actually read the entire thing? By not doing so, a driver would not know that they are not supposed to pick up unaccompanied minors.
Everyone Does It
Another reason drivers pick up unaccompanied minors is because “other drivers do it.” Remember when you were a kid, and your mom used to ask you “if your friends jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?” This is the same mindset many have.
It can be difficult to deny a ride to a minor. Often, it is the parents who book Uber rides for their kids. Like many of us, they don’t know about Uber’s policy on unaccompanied minors. You may have to argue with —and even endure threats from— the minor and/or their parents. Then, be disheartened to see another driver pull and pick them up. They may also give you a low rating, which you don’t deserve. It makes for a very frustrating experience for everyone. As with drivers, most Uber riders have also not read the Terms of Service thoroughly. Many have no idea that drivers shouldn’t pick up unaccompanied minors.
What Can Be Done
Uber should step up and take some responsibility for their uninterested approach in stopping minors from becoming Uber riders. So many have their own accounts. This would be easy to combat if Uber would verify their age as part of their account creation process.
Rideshare companies could also prevent account holders from booking rides for minors through the app using pop-up dialog box confirming the age of the rider. Should the account holder lie about the rider’s age, then Uber must deactivate the account ASAP.
As drivers, we could also make a difference by reporting account holders who book Uber rides for unaccompanied minors. It could put a dent on their rating. And if they already have a low rating, Uber would deactivate their account.
I do not in any way believe Uber or the Uber driver is responsible for the little girl’s death. I do believe, however, that it is crucial to have the conversations about unaccompanied minors and the responsibility of all parties involved.
In the death of the little girl Florida, Uber’s spokesperson has said the matter was not reported to them over the last six months. They said the company is investigating and “will take appropriate action.”
While this story is about Uber, both Uber and Lyft need to step up on the issue. They should take responsibility for ensuring the safety of both their drivers and passengers through their respective platforms.