Fake rideshare driver charged with sexual assault

‘Rideshare’ also referred to as ‘carpooling’ is the term used for when two or more commuters ride together in a private vehicle. The rideshare app ‘Lyft’ works in a similar way to the popular Uber app – you request a ride through the app, get matched with a driver and pay the driver through the app at the end of the journey.

However, rideshare companies have come under increased scrutiny over safety issues, especially sexual assault charges.  In Australia a 43 year old man has recently been charged with sexual assault after pretending to be a rideshare driver.  It is alleged he assaulted three women aged between 19 – 21 years old either late at night or in the early hours of the morning.   

It is thought the man would target young girls on their phones who were obviously trying to order a rideshare service.  He would pull up beside them and coerce them into his vehicle.  Once inside and the app would not sync with his vehicle, he would enter into a cash transaction and go on to perform a series of unwanted acts of a sexual nature. 

On one occasion, the man is said to have dropped a woman at her home before following her inside and assaulting her.

This arrest follows reports that Lyft received more than 4,000 complaints of sexual assaults occurring during rides between 2017 – 2019.  Uber published a similar report showing more than 3,000 sexual assaults were reported during rides in 2018 alone.

It also follows reports of a spike in unregulated drivers after more than half of licensed mini-cab drivers have not returned to the trade in the UK since the pandemic resulted in lock down and demand plummeted, an industry group said.  The shortage has prompted concerns over the safety of women, students and night time workers struggling to get home.  It also is having a detrimental impact on those needing to attend medical appointments, travel for work and some rural pubs have seen a significant decrease in clientele as many are put off by the difficulties in obtaining transport.    

Students at Staffordshire University told how there was a real lack of taxis “or they’re all dodgy” demanding payment before the journey has even begun. 

The National Union of Students said some universities were partnering with taxi firms to create safer routes to students.   

One council taking a proactive approach to tackle the shortage is Torbay in Devon where they have slashed the cost of licensing to just £50 to encourage people to apply; but they still have less than half of the drivers needed. 

With a focus on those who are vulnerable and the public safety at large, the vital role of licensed and regulated drivers cannot be underestimated.  The government are being urged to prioritise the shortage and to address it now.

Written by Lyndsey Jackson at BLM (lyndsey.jackson@blmlaw.com)

The National Association for People Abused in Childhood is a national charity offering support to adult survivors of all types of childhood abuse, including physical, emotional, sexual and neglect. As well as advocating on behalf of survivors in the media and elsewhere, NAPAC also trains professionals who have frequent contact with survivors of child abuse as part of their working environment. If you have been affected by the issues raised in today’s blog, or would like additional support, please use the links above.

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