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The Rise of the Rideshare: Using Uber and Lyft Safely in Southwest Florida

rideshare app on an iphone

The adoption of rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft has seen a remarkable increase in recent years, fundamentally transforming how we navigate urban landscapes. According to research conducted by Zippia, approximately 36% of Americans have used a ridesharing service at least once, with 30% of these individuals incorporating rideshare into their monthly routine. This surge in popularity underscores not only the convenience and efficiency these platforms offer but also highlights a growing reliance on digital solutions for everyday mobility.

However, the exponential growth of rideshare services brings to light significant safety concerns and challenges. Auto accidents, safety breaches, and other security concerns have inevitably risen as more individuals turn to these platforms for transportation. The complexity of these issues is further compounded by the fact that rideshare vehicles straddle the line between personal and commercial use, creating gray areas in regulation and accountability.

Recognizing the urgent need for enhanced safety measures and more transparent regulatory frameworks, the State of Florida enacted legislation known as HB 221, commonly referred to as the “Uber/Lyft Bill.” This pioneering piece of legislation, aimed at addressing the burgeoning safety concerns associated with the rise of rideshare services, sets forth comprehensive measures to ensure the safety of passengers and drivers.

An In-Depth Look at HB 221, the “Uber/Lyft Bill”

In May 2017, a landmark piece of legislation was enacted in Florida, fundamentally altering the regulatory landscape for transportation network companies (TNCs) such as Uber and Lyft. Signed into law by then-Governor Rick Scott, House Bill 221 (HB 221), popularly known as the "Uber/Lyft Bill," was designed with a clear set of goals: to bolster passenger safety, ensure a rigorous driver vetting process, and establish definitive insurance coverage mandates. This legislation marked a pivotal moment for TNC operations within the state, aiming to harmonize the burgeoning rideshare industry with the critical need for user safety and protection.

Insurance Coverage Requirements for Rideshare Drivers

One of the cornerstone elements of HB 221 addresses the insurance coverage required for rideshare drivers, recognizing the unique risks the rideshare model poses.

The legislation stipulates distinct insurance coverage minimums based on the driver's status:

  • When the driver is logged onto the app but not engaged in a ride, the insurance coverage must include a minimum of $50,000 for death and bodily injury per person, $100,000 for death and bodily injury per incident, and $30,000 for property damage.
  • During the time a driver is engaged in a ride, the coverage minimums escalate to $1 million for death, bodily injury, and property damage. This coverage can be maintained by either the rideshare company or the driver.

Mandatory Background Checks for Drivers

HB 221 mandates that TNCs or third parties conduct a thorough criminal background check before a driver can begin accepting rides, with subsequent checks required every three years. To qualify, drivers must not have more than three moving violations in the past three years nor a history of serious criminal convictions within specified timeframes, including felonies, DUI misdemeanors, or violent offenses. Furthermore, drivers must not be listed on the National Sex Offender Public Website.

Regulations for Operating Rideshare Vehicles

The bill imposes a zero-tolerance policy for drug or alcohol use by drivers while engaged in the service, whether logged onto the app or providing a ride. This policy underscores the commitment to passenger safety and the integrity of the rideshare service experience.

Rules for Rideshare Drivers

Under HB 221, rideshare drivers cannot accept rides for compensation that have not been prearranged via the rideshare app. This measure prevents the acceptance of street hails and the manipulation of the digital network, thereby maintaining the structured and secure nature of the service.

Additionally, drivers must prominently display their license plate number and photo, allowing passengers to verify their ride before entering the vehicle.

Safety Tips for Rideshare Passengers in Florida

As rideshare services like Uber and Lyft continue to grow in popularity across Florida, ensuring passenger safety has never been more crucial. From verifying your ride to trusting your instincts, these guidelines are designed to help Floridians navigate the rideshare landscape safely and confidently.

Verify the Ride

Before stepping into a rideshare vehicle, take a moment to ensure the car and the driver match the details provided in the app.

Check the following against what’s displayed on your screen:

  • Driver's name
  • Driver’s photo
  • Vehicle’s license plate number

This step is fundamental in safeguarding against mismatches or fraudulent drivers.

Stay Informed

Leverage the features of your rideshare app to enhance your safety. Share your ride details, including the driver's name, vehicle information, and route, with friends or family. This act keeps someone you trust informed of your whereabouts and expected arrival time.

Additionally, actively monitor your route through the app or a personal device to ensure you're heading to the correct destination.

Ride Smart

Selecting safe locations for pickups and drop-offs is a vital safety measure.

Keep conversations with the driver general and polite. Avoid sharing personal details, such as your destination or where you are staying. This precaution helps maintain your privacy and security throughout the ride.

As you greet your driver, quickly assess their condition. Be alert for any signs that the driver might be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Their speech, coordination, and overall demeanor can be telling. Remember, your safety is paramount, and rideshare companies have a zero-tolerance policy for such violations.

Inspect the Vehicle

Before embarking on your journey, look around the vehicle for any signs of dents, scratches, or other damage that might indicate unsafe driving habits. During the ride, be alert to unusual sounds that could suggest potential vehicle safety issues.

Buckle Up

Always use your seatbelt, regardless of where you are seated. The driver should also be wearing their seatbelt. This simple action is a fundamental aspect of road safety that can reduce the risk of injury in the event of an accident.

Trust Your Instincts

If you feel uncomfortable at any point during the ride, do not hesitate to act on your instincts. Politely ask the driver to pull over in a safe, well-lit area. Once you have exited the vehicle, promptly report the incident to the rideshare company. Your feedback is vital in maintaining the safety and integrity of rideshare services.

Handling Uber/Lyft Accidents

Despite the rigorous safety measures implemented by rideshare companies, accidents involving Uber and Lyft drivers can still occur. When such unfortunate events happen, passengers should know they can take action and seek compensation for damages or injuries sustained.

Consulting with a personal injury attorney with experience in rideshare cases is critical. A lawyer can help you understand your rights, the nuances of rideshare law, and the compensation you may be entitled to. They can assist in dealing with insurance companies, filing a lawsuit if necessary, and pursuing financial recovery.

At Pittman Law Firm, P.L., we help individuals and families in Bonita Springs pursue compensation for accident-related injuries. Our team works closely with each client, providing personalized support every step of the way.

Call us today at (239) 603-6913 or complete a consultation form.