New background checks may be required for ride-hailing drivers



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Roy Wright, a Yellow Taxi Co. driver, waits in a taxi cab to go pick up a passenger. Wright said that Uber drivers "need to be managed". Wright has worked for Yellow Taxi Co. for seven years. Nicole Krasean and Nicole Krasean Buy Photos

Proposed legislation to improve rider safety for taxi and ride-hailing passengers passed committee on a split vote in the Indiana General Assembly on ?Tuesday.

The bill, authored by Rep. Christina Hale, D-Indianapolis, would require all taxi and ride-hailing drivers to pass a background check every seven years.

“In some cities in Indiana, you could serve your time in prison and walk out the next morning to drive a taxi,” ?Hale said.

Hale cited safety concerns as her motivation to introduce ?the bill.

“I was motivated by different incidents of violence,” Hale said, describing situations where taxi riders were, or could have been, taken advantage of.

“As a passenger, I’ve been in that vulnerable situation ?myself,” Hale said.

If passed, the bill would go into effect July 1, 2015 and would affect all taxi and ride-hailing services.

No statewide laws currently exist requiring background checks for taxi or ride-hailing drivers, Hale said.

When asked about exploring further regulations beyond safety for ride-hailing, Hale ?responded quickly.

“I’ve been looking into all of that,” she said. “I’m involved in another bill involving ?insurance.”

This bill aims to introduce statewide safety regulations.

Les Gyger, a manager for Bloomington-based Yellow Cab Taxi, said the new legislation is the industry standard.

“I have no problem with the bill,” Gyger said. “Mostly every company is already doing that.”

Gyger said he supported taxi and ride-hailing driver background checks.

“If I’m putting my daughter in a car with you, I want to know I can trust you,” Gyger said. “We got to do everything in our power to protect you kids, especially in a college town.”

Yellow Cab Taxi has been family-owned and operated in Bloomington since 1919, Gyger said. He has served as the company’s manager for 14 years. His dad managed the business for 30 years prior to Gyger taking over.

Ride-hailing services, such as Uber and Lyft, are relative newcomers in the transportation market.

Ride-hailing services are not traditional taxi companies and instead use apps to connect independent drivers to riders.

Uber launched in 2009 and now has a worldwide presence in more than 200 cities, according to the company’s website. Uber arrived in Bloomington in fall 2014.

“These services are flourishing in college and university towns,” Hale said.

She added she wants students to be safe in late-night ?environments.

IU sophomore Patrick Phelan said he has had positive ?experiences with Uber.

“I felt safe, but I was with people,” Phelan said. “If I was by myself it would have been a different story, especially if I was a girl getting into a car with a random dude who claimed to be an Uber driver.”

Uber has safety standards, but Hale said she is concerned about future companies’ standards.

“Everybody would have to subscribe to the same best practices,” Hale said.

All drivers are required to be 21 years old and undergo a full criminal background check, according to Uber’s website.

Despite this, Uber and other ride-hailing services have drawn scrutiny from regulators.

Uber’s standards attracted criticism in December 2014 after an alleged rape of a passenger by an Uber driver in the Boston area, as reported by the Boston Globe.

Cities and states have attempted to regulate Uber with mixed success.

Uber has been banned or fined in San Francisco, Chicago, Massachusetts and New York, among other municipalities, according to a 2014 report by Forbes.

Most of these bans and fines center on insurance laws or existing taxi regulations, according to Forbes.

Uber has fought back against these regulatory attempts and regularly publishes blog posts celebrating its successes, including receiving permission to operate in Washington, D.C.

Hale was aware of the pushback that other ?regulatory attempts have caused and sought to avoid any controversy.

“This bill concentrates on rider safety and background checks,” Hale said. “Uber actually testified in support of the bill.”

Hale made a point of highlighting that this bill in no way seeks to act as a deterrent to ride-hailing ?companies.

“I don’t want to discourage new business,” Hale said. “I just want to make sure you feel safe in the backseat of that car.”

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