How lawmakers are trying to crackdown on ride-share availability for minors

Lawmakers seek to crack down on rides shares for minors

A local lawmaker wants ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft to put more layers of security in place, to prevent minors from taking unauthorized rides.

It comes after an Orlando girl’s parents say she was able to take a ride, no questions asked, the night she died by suicide.

Both of the most popular ride-share companies, Uber and Lyft, have rules posted right on their websites showing minors are not allowed to ride unattended. With the permission of a 13-year-old’s parents, we put both companies to the test in Orlando.

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It took 13-year-old Noah just minutes to sign up for accounts, and just minutes for his first ride to show up. We drove behind as he rode in an Uber from Lake Eola to Colonial Plaza.

“He was like, ‘I’m really not supposed to pick up kids under 18,' but he’s like, ‘It’s not that far away, so I’m not going to just leave you,’” Noah said of the driver.

From there, the seventh-grade student hopped into a Lyft, to another plaza up the street. That Lyft driver told us she made the trip, even though she had reservations.

“Normally, I’m used to parents contacting and saying, ‘OK, this is my child you’re picking them up at XYZ,’ so it kind of put red flags,” she said.

State Rep. Rene Plasencia filed House Bill 657 aimed at forcing transportation network companies to follow their own rules.

“A lot of drivers aren’t checking to see if they’re minors or not,” Plasencia said. “Oftentimes it’s obvious they’re minors, but they’re offering them the rides anyway.”

The legislation calls for users to submit a photo of a government-issued ID to prove their age, and a process to verify any underage users have permission from an adult to take trips alone.

It’s a bill filed following the death of 12-year-old Benita Diamond. The Orlando girl’s parents say she was able to take a ride-share service, no questions asked, the night she died by suicide.

“We believe there needs to be something in statute that has some accountability to it, so if you do choose as a company to transport minors, that there is some sort of parental notification,” Plasencia said.

Both drivers who picked up Noah told us they would be open to more safeguards, noting it would protect drivers and the minors.

Representatives from Uber and Lyft told 9 Investigates they have been in contact with Plasencia about the legislation.

A Lyft spokesperson said: “We’ve been in touch with Representative Plasencia and are always open to engaging with lawmakers on legislation that impacts riders and drivers. As stated in Lyft’s Terms of Service, unaccompanied minors are not permitted in a Lyft vehicle. Children are welcome to join adult passengers in a ride, but cannot ride alone. We send periodic reminders to drivers about this and other policies.”

An Uber spokesperson issued this statement about the death of Benita Diamond:

“This was a horrible tragedy and we are deeply saddened that someone so young chose to take her life. We will continue working with legislators, law enforcement, and stakeholders to focus on the most effective measures to put safety first.”

The push comes at the same time Uber released a safety report revealing passengers reported 3,000 sexual assaults last year. In total, the 84-page report states there were nearly 6,000 sexual and physical assaults, as well as rapes and deaths, in the past two years. However, Uber claims 99.9% of their rides happen without any issues or incidents.