Death and Taxis

By Diane Tait

Image courtesy flickr
With the cost of vehicles today approaching what starter houses cost just a few decades ago, more and more people are opting for ridesharing.  And why not?  Ridesharing allows you to not only pay only when you need a ride, it also eliminates the costs associated with fuel, maintenance and auto insurance.  Whether your rideshare company of choice is Uber, Lyft or the local cab company, if you put precious little miles on your current vehicle, the rideshare concept could well be something you’ve been thinking about for quite some time.  Before you place a for sale sign on your current ride, you need to know the full story of the fledgling rideshare industry.

What’s not to like about point, click and ride? – Paying a small fixed cost per ride beats digging deep in your wallet every month for the care and feeding of a car, right?  That depends on how often you need a set of wheels.  Think about it, how often do you go shopping?  How far is your daily commute to and from the office?  How often do you go out for a bite to eat or visit friends and family?  Those miles add up fast and so too can rideshare fees.  In an August, 2018article, DNBC pointed out a few facts you should know: 

      1.      The average cost to own a car per year is currently $7,321 excluding paid parking and $10,049 including parking for 10,000 miles.

      2.      Ridesharing services cost the consumer $17,339 per year to cover the same distance  in Florida.  In other cities, the cost can be as high as $26,397.

Image courtesy Pixabay
How safe is ridesharing? – If you’ve ever hailed a cab in New York, Boston or LA, you’ve no doubt had to deal with cab drivers who acted as though their other job was driving a Formula 1 racecar.  Since taxi and rideshare drivers get paid by the mile, you can understand why it’s in their best interest to rack up as many miles per shift as possible.  That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s in the passenger’s best interest if you wind up with Speed Racer behind the wheel.

Industry statistics point out a few sobering facts: 

      1.      The Cato Institute pointed out back in 2015 that both Uber and Lyft were facing a number of passenger complaints as the companies continued to quickly grow.

      2.      Physical altercations with passengers, including a reported kidnapping of a passenger in 2014 by one Uber driver in Washington DC and assault charges filed against both an Uber and a Lyft driver in San Francisco during the same year.

      3.      The report also noted poorly maintained vehicles being used by ridesharing services as another safety concern to passengers. (In New York City, taxis are required to be inspected 3 times per year.)

      4.      In 2016, an Uber driver was accused of shooting a half dozen people while picking up and dropping off passengers.

      5.      In 2018, a self-driving Uber vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian while transporting a passenger.

Image courtesy Pixabay
How are rideshare drivers screened? – Rideshare drivers are required to complete a background check which screens them for felony convictions over the past seven years.  The background check, however, doesn’t include fingerprints.

How often are their vehicles inspected? – Drivers are required to have their vehicles inspected prior to joining either Uber or Lyft. 

How much insurance do Uber and Lyft drivers carry? – Uber provides drivers with $1 million liability and uninsured motorist coverage, plus $50,000 comprehensive and collision coverage.  Lyft provides $50,000 maximum per person, $100,000 maximum per accident with $50,000 maximum personal damage coverage.

Where can I find a list of incidents involving Uber & Lyft drivers? – The website collected and published hundreds of incidents involving drivers up to July 26, 2018, that includes a number of accidents, assaults and deaths.  

Tips for Passengers

Before you book a trip with any rideshare service, there are several things you can do to increase the odds in your favor:

      1.      Check the star ratings listed on the app to make sure the driver is experienced and reliable.
      2.      Be aware of your surroundings when you wait for pickup and get dropped off.
      3.      Make sure the vehicle that pulls over to offer you a ride is the vehicle you booked.
      4.      If the driver makes you feel uncomfortable, get dropped off at the closest public place, even if it means hailing another ride.
      5.      Never ride in the front seat, even if the driver asks you to.
      6.      Make sure your cellphone is with you and fully charged.
      7.      Let a friend or family member know where you are going and call them when you arrive.

While I’m not saying that the rideshare industry isn’t yet ready for prime time, it’s clear that there are still some growing pains that need to be worked out.  Whether ridesharing is a viable proposition that makes sense as a full-time transportation system for you is another matter.  All I can say is before you sell your car, you need to do your homework to make sure you understand all the pluses and minuses if you don’t want to get taken for a ride.

 Diane Tait owns and operates A&B Insurance.  To find out more about how you can save money on insurance, go to her site or fill out the form at right.


  1. Statistically it takes about 20-years for an industry to mature. Remember what personal computers were like back in the 90's?

  2. If you ride Uber or Lyft a lot - this article is for you!


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