The Investigators

Apr 18, 2014 7:10 PM by Tom McNamara and Paul Birmingham

N4T Investigators: Avoiding potential danger when using ride-sharing services

TUCSON - Need a ride someplace? You can call a cab, or jump aboard a new mode of transportation.

Several new car services are now drawing passengers, entrepreneurs, and some criticism in Tucson.

The apps UberX and Lyft have taken hailing a ride into the 21st century.

You, the passenger, use the free smartphone app to request a car and driver. The app then locates the nearest driver. That driver will show up behind the wheel of their personal vehicle to take you where you want to go.

However, this new technology is not without some potential speed-bumps.

"You just want to be real clear, before you get in the car how much you're expected to pay. As soon as you get in the car, just ask the driver straight up," says Nick LaFleur, with the Better Business Bureau.

But, some say price may be the least of your concerns.

The Arizona Insurance Council tells the News 4 Tucson Investigators, insurance coverage is a major worry, since drivers are usually just part-time amateurs looking to make a few bucks. Their personal auto insurance likely won't cover accidents while they're using the car as a cab.

LaFleur also warns passengers and drivers to know what to expect if you're in an accident.

"Just know what you're getting yourself into. Know what sort of coverage the company is going to give you as far as insurance. Know what your personal insurance will give you if you're driving for one of these ride-sharing companies," LaFleur says.

Both UberX and Lyft say their insurance will cover whatever costs are not covered by a driver's personal car policy. Lyft provides up to $1M in extra liability per driver per accident. In the past few months, Lyft has also added contingent collision, as well as uninsured/underinsured motorist, and match mode backstop coverage. Both services also claim they check-out the backgrounds and records of their drivers before they're hired, over and above what cab companies do.

Arizona lawmakers are just now grappling with a measure that would begin to define and perhaps regulate new car services like UberX and Lyft. Though, but AAA Arizona says, pending legislation doesn't go far enough.

"There's definitely is a loophole. Right now the bill does not define when these drivers are operating commercially, which places an undue burden on all motorists," says Valerie Vinyard, with AAA Arizona.

Meanwhile, cab drivers who are required to be licensed by the state say there's an issue of fairness when it comes to the ride-sharing apps. They say this new breed of cars for hire should be held to higher standards.

"All cab drivers in the major companies that work in Tucson, they're all drug-tested, and they have their background checks, and they have to answer locally and be accountable to anything that they do wrong here," says Christopher Kroh, with the Tucson Hacks Association.

Taxi companies in some cities including Houston and San Antonio are suing UberX and Lyft. They claim the cyber companies operate illegally and steal their business. In Seattle, city leaders have limited the number of uber and lyft drivers who can be on city streets at any one time.

If you have something you'd like the News 4 Tucson Investigators to check out, email us, at investigators@ kvoa.com, or call the News 4 Tucson Investigators tip-line at (520) 955-4444.

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