People who call for an Uber and get into a Honda van are sometimes making a tragic mistake.
A 24-year-old college student from University Park is now a quadriplegic due to a horrific crash in Dallas a year ago.
Sarah Milburn was home from a break from Oklahoma State University. She was about to graduate and start a new job and her future was bright. After celebrating with friends in Uptown, instead of driving, they sensibly called Uber. Sarah buckled her seat belt, even though she sat in the third row of the Honda Odyssey.
She thought that she had done the right thing. But she couldn’t possibly know that Uber had failed to vet its driver. Or that the van she sat in was defectively designed. Or that she would nearly die.
The Uber driver, Anan Yusufzai, sped through a red light at the busy intersection of McKinney and Fitzhugh Avenues and was T-boned by a Ford 150 pickup truck. The van flipped upside down and Sarah dangled precariously upside down. She was cut out and rushed to the ICU at Baylor University Medical Center. Tragically, the crash broke broke her spinal cord.
Sarah filed a lawsuit two weeks ago against the driver, the owner of the Honda named Dawood Kohistanti, Uber Technologies, and Honda Motor Company.
The driver and owner are obviously liable for the collision. Unfortunately neither had liability insurance covering the commercial vehicle.
Whether Uber and Honda will be held liable is a question of law that the litigation process will have to resolve. A jury will have to decide why Uber allowed a reckless driver to shuttle passengers around when it widely advertises in bars, online, and in print that it will provide its customers with a “safe ride?” A jury will also hear evidence and deliberate whether the van was crashworthy, i.e. it was designed and manufactured to withstand collisions?
The petition alleges that both the driver and owner had been arrested for drug possession and gambling and that Uber knew or should have known this fact. Uber does not vet its drivers.
On the other hand, Texas laws govern taxicabs. They regulate required insurance coverage, background checks and basic maintenance requirements of the commercial vehicles. So why don’t regulations cover Uber, Lyft and other rideshare companies? Passengers can’t research the driver’s driving history, insurance policy, and safety of the car before getting into a vehicle.
Last year, Austin passed legislation that set safety standards for ride sharing companies. After millions were spent by the Uber lobbyists, voters rejected a hard fought measure to overturn the law. Uber pulled out of the Austin market. But they, Lyft, and other companies are flooding every other city, and with ads like this one popping up on everyone’s screens, how could they possibly have any trouble finding (unqualified) drivers?
Now a Texas senator plans to introduce legislation that would allow the ride sharing companies to forgo crucial safety vetting, claiming such regulations interfere with the “free market.” He explained his decision to put corporate interests ahead of passenger safety in a statement:
“As a state with a long tradition of supporting the free market, Texas should not accept transparent, union-driven efforts to create new barriers to entry for the sole purpose of stifling innovation and eliminating competition.”
Uber recently settled a class action for $28.5 million brought by California customers and another $25 million in a suit brought by the District Attorneys of San Francisco (where it is headquartered) and Los Angeles for its fraud and negligence in cases just like this Dallas crash.
People like Sarah and her friends who act responsibly should feel confident that their lives are safe. Regulation is the key to making Uber a safe alternative to drunk driving.
Uber advertises that it keeps drunk drivers off the road. But what if its drivers are just as reckless?