Chicago-Based Uber and Lyft Drivers Will Now Be Drug Tested

By McCarton Ackerman 09/11/14

A non-drug related incident in Atlanta prompted a South Side alderman to push "common sense" drug testing on drivers.

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Chicago drivers for ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft will now be required to undergo drug tests in order to remain behind the wheel, but the impetus for this new measure is an incident hundreds of miles away that may not have even involved drugs.

Atlanta Police are currently investigating a report that an Uber driver pulled a gun on a valet attendant who asked him to move his car forward. There is currently no evidence that drugs played a role in the incident, but it was enough for South Side Alderman Roderick Sawyer to forbid ride-sharing companies throughout Chicago from hiring a driver that has not passed a drug test administered by a company authorized by City Hall.

The city’s ride-sharing ordinance originally called for drug testing, but that portion was removed before City Council approved the ordinance on May 28. “We want to make sure our constituents are safe and have a safe ride,” said Sawyer. “It’s just a common-sense approach.”

All drivers would need to drug tested annually and a positive test would result in being prohibited from operating a ride-sharing vehicle for at least one year. They would also need to pass a drug test before being rehired. Any company who hired a driver who tested positive or didn’t follow the protocol would face daily fines of $500-1,000. However, the mandate has a two-tiered system which will prevent part-time drivers from having to be tested annually.

Last month, Uber announced that it would be begin a trial program for delivering drug store products directly to the homes of customers. The trial is currently only limited to specific neighborhoods within Washington, D.C., but they are hoping to expand it in the coming months.

“We're in the business of delivering cars in five minutes. And once you can deliver cars in five minutes, there's a lot of things you can deliver in five minutes," said Uber founder Travis Kalanick last December. The company is currently worth $18 billion.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.