Uber Faces $1.1 Million Fine Over Drunk-Driving Complaints

By William Georgiades 04/14/17

California state regulators seek to fine the company $7,500 for each of the 151 violations.

driver with uber app opened on their smartphone.

Uber could be fined $1.13 million in California after a review by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) revealed that the company failed to look into so-called “zero tolerance” cases involving their employees and drinking and driving.

In one startling detail, according to a complaint, 64 Uber drivers who received customer complaints for drunk driving were back on the road picking up customers within one hour of receiving the complaint, according to Engadget.

Zero tolerance refers to California’s policy regarding commercial drivers found to be drinking on the job; the requirements are that all companies post that policy clearly, provide a clear way for customers to make the complaints, and for the company to suspend drivers immediately. 

According to the review, Uber failed to follow through on all of these laws. And between August 2014 and August 2015, the company received 2,047 complaints, but suspended or deactivated only 574 of their drivers, according to a complaint filed by CPUC (the regulator for ride-hailing companies in California).

The regulators reviewed 154 of those complaints and found that Uber only suspended five of those drivers. The recommended fine was $7,500 per violation, leading to the $1,132,500 fine for all such violations, according to Market Watch.

For its part, Uber claims it has improved its handling of these complaints since 2015, is working closely with CPUC and, a spokeswoman for the company said in a recent statement, that Uber has “zero tolerance for any impaired driving.”

However, the order does point out that Uber does not make the complaint process simple—to confirm a driver was drunk, the company requires drivers to admit they were drunk or have the rider take a video of the driver being drunk or have the driver arrested for DUI. Further, complaints made about drivers have to be categorized.

Ironically, in 2015, Uber published a press release on its website promoting itself as a safe option after a night of drinking titled “Making Our Roads Safe For Everyone.” The company has also aligned itself with Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

A subsequent study by the University of Southern California and Oxford University showed that ride-sharing companies in general, including Lyft and other competitors, had made zero impact on the number of drunk driving fatalities.

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William Georgiades is a former editor at EsquireBlack Book, the New York Post and the Grapevine and has written for several publications including New York MagazineVanity Fair, the London Times and GQ. He has been the features editor at The Fix since 2013. You can find him on Linkedin.