Is Your Lyft Uber Reliable and Insured?

Lyft2There are several relatively new ride share businesses in the Chicago area. Lyft and Uber are just two of them. You may have seen the Lyft cars as they are easily identifiable with the pink feather boa (or is it a moustache?) hanging from the front grill.

They work pretty simply. You, the consumer, register, often downloading their app onto your phone. When you want a ride, you type in where, when etc., and the site pairs you with a driver. Which begs the question: exactly who is this driver?

I have been thinking of this for quite awhile. First, a cab driver/owner whom I use frequently, questioned how reliable and well-trained these Uber and Lyft drivers are. She also questioned whether their insurance coverage was on a par with cabs.

Cabs are required to carry $350,000.00 in maximum insurance liability coverage (meaning that for each incident in which people are injured, that is the maximum amount available to pay claims). While this is a great thing, far higher than the Illinois minimum of $25,000.00 per individual/$50,000.00 per incident (and this was just increased to that low level this year), keep in mind that cab insurance carriers routinely fight every claim tooth and nail.

While there is the inherent hassle of fighting cab companies on cases, at least you are assured the cab is well-insured. This led me to ponder, what kind of training and insurance do these places and drivers have and is it as safe and reliable as a taxi cab?

Another recent experience rekindled this idea in my head. My hair stylist hired an Uber so she could attend a Bears game (the Monday night one where it was subzero wind chills). The driver was a guy who apparently spoke little English, had absolutely no clue where anything was (Soldier Field is the big ugly UFO-like thing by the lake), and drove erratically. She was so frightened, she asked if one of the members of her party could drive.

Keep in mind that not only do you not have any control over which driver you are assigned (admittedly, much like a cab), but you have absolutely no control or assurance of the technical and maintenance status of the vehicle. In these arrangements, it is the driver's own personal vehicle being used. Of course, the sites promise you that they perform checks on the drivers and presumably make sure their vehicles are safe, but how much do you really know and how comfortable are you?

Again, cabs are at least a known quantity that is regulated by various governmental entities (for example, the Chicago Department of Consumer Affairs), mandated to have insurance (as stated above), operated by professional drivers who must meet certain criteria.

The ride sharing businesses cannot boast professionally trained drivers, and are in the infancy of their business model, meaning they likely escape much of the regulatory protections to which taxicabs are subjected.

While the Lyft site promises $1 Million liability coverage, the devil is, as always, in the details. Since their website does not specify exactly what is covered, this is hard to evaluate. Uber, meanwhile, requires one to sign in to learn any details about much of anything.

As to the drivers themselves, Lyft claims background checks of drivers. Again, Uber is hard to evaluate, but, if my hairstylist's experience is typical, driver professionalism and training is not quite there yet. The key is that these are just everyday people with cars who want to get paid for driving you around; they are not drivers by profession and they do not necessarily have the same experience as a professional career driver.

Without taking sides, it is clear you, the consumer, should do some research before deciding to utilize and engage a ride-sharing service. We all know eyes wide open, what we get into when we open the door to a cab. There is not the same certainty with the ride shares.

Categories: General