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Lawmakers ask Uber, Lyft for answers on sexual assaults

Nine members of Congress write a letter to ride-hailing companies saying they want to know more.

lyft

Ride-hailing companies now provide millions of rides a day.

Lyft

Lawmakers want ride-hailing companies to explain how they deal with sexual assaults.

Nine members of Congress sent a letter Monday to Uber, Lyft, Juno, Via and Curb asking the companies to provide information on how they gather data on sexual assaults their drivers reportedly commit, according to CNN. The lawmakers also want to know what the companies do to prevent them.

Ride-hailing companies give millions of rides per day, but as these services have grown the companies have come under fire amid reports of drivers assaulting passengers. After analyzing police reports and court records across the US, CNN found last month that at least 103 Uber drivers and 18 Lyft drivers have allegedly raped, forcibly touched or kidnapped passengers, among other crimes over the last four years.

"These reports are appalling," the letter reads. "We are horrified to think that our family, friends, and constituents may be subject to sexual assault while using your service."

A handful of states, including California, Colorado, Massachusetts and Texas, have previously launched investigations into Uber and Lyft, alleging they routinely fail to screen drivers adequately and have hired drivers with criminal histories.

Both Uber and Lyft have acknowledged the problem and say they're working to make their service safer. Uber launched several new safety features last month, including an in-app emergency 911 button and tougher driver screenings that require annual background checks. Both companies also offer real-time ride tracking and 24/7 customer support.

Last week, in a major reversal of their policy, both Uber and Lyft announced they're dropping all arbitration agreements they had with riders, drivers and employees over individual claims of sexual assault or harassment. They also ended confidentiality provisions that prevented victims from speaking out. In addition, they promised to release -- for the first time -- data on sexual assaults. The companies said this data won't be available for several months.

"This is an incredibly important issue, and we look forward to responding to the letter sent to us this morning," a Lyft spokesman said in an email. "We take this issue very seriously and work closely with law enforcement when appropriate."

An Uber spokeswoman said the company is also planning to respond to the lawmakers. A Via spokeswoman said passenger and driver safety is of utmost concern to the company. 

"We look forward to discussing our protocols and processes with members of Congress, and to working with other companies in the industry to ensure every individual choosing to ride or drive on our platforms is able to do so safely," said the Via spokeswoman.

In the letter, the members of Congress ask the companies if they share information with each other on drivers who allegedly commit assaults -- since many drivers work for multiple companies. The lawmakers didn't give the ride-hailing companies a deadline for a response, but said they expect an answer within a reasonable amount of time, according to CNN.

"As ridesharing becomes more ubiquitous, it should be in our shared interest to ensure these spaces are measured by the highest standards in safety," the members of Congress wrote.

Curb and Juno didn't respond to requests for comment. Rep. Joseph Crowley, the Democrat from New York who drafted the letter, also didn't respond to a request for comment. 

First published May 21, 1:34 p.m. PT. 
Update, 2:46 p.m.: Adds comment from Uber spokeswoman and Via spokeswoman.

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