Disarmed by company policy, Uber and Lyft drivers are being targeted by carjackers

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

That’s somewhat of an evergreen headline, since this isn’t exactly a new phenomenon, nor are the company’s policies requiring their drivers to be disarmed while on the clock. Violate that policy and you’ll be fired, even if you used your gun in self-defense.

The latest city to warn drivers that they’re being targeted is Wallingford, Connecticut, where two armed carjackings have taken place in the past few days.

On Wednesday at about 6:30 p.m., police responded to a reported carjacking in the area of 179 South Turnpike Road. The Uber driver, who was not injured, said she had picked up a male passenger in another town who was wearing all black clothing and a black N95 facemask. The man showed a gun, ordered the victim out of the car and then sped off in the gray 2018 Nissan Rogue with Connecticut plate AV56647, police said.

On Monday at about 6 p.m., police responded to a reported carjacking in the area of 191 South Turnpike Road. The Uber driver, who was not injured, said he had picked up two passengers in another town. The men showed a handgun and forced the victim out of the car, then took off in the blue 2012 Honda Accord with Connecticut plate 2AUBH5, police said.

Wallingford Police Sgt. Stephen Jaques says that rideshare drivers need to “use caution when conducting pickups of potential customers,” but what exactly does that mean? These drivers can’t pat down every customer before they get into their car, after all. Are they supposed to tell customers they won’t let them in unless they take off their mask so they can be clearly identified?

The uncomfortable truth is that carjackings overall have increased around the country over the past couple of years, and drivers for companies like Uber and Lyft are seen as easy targets. The “safety features” introduced by the firms, meanwhile, completely ignore the fact that some drivers are going to be forced into a situation where self-defense is their best option… or at least it would be if they weren’t disarmed by their employer.

The ride-sharing apps have long had safety measures—for example, Uber has an emergency button that connects drivers to 911 and shares their GPS coordinates with dispatchers. Lyft has a similar feature. Both companies are adding more.

Earlier this year, Uber and Lyft made it mandatory for riders who use untraceable payment methods such as gift cards to upload government IDs. This summer, Uber backed a program to offer cash rewards to people with information on carjackers in and around Chicago. In the past 18 months, Lyft doubled the head count of its team that responds to data requests from law enforcement.

“We’re committed to doing everything we can to help keep drivers safe,” said Lyft spokeswoman Ashley Adams. “Violent crime, including carjacking, has been on the rise across the United States.”

No, they’re not doing everything they can to keep drivers safe. They’re actively impeding the safety of their drivers by prohibiting them from protecting themselves with a legally-owned, lawfully-carried firearm, and it sure looks like some carjackers are aware of that policy and are using it to their advantage. As long as companies like Uber and Lyft require that their contractors be unarmed, they’ll continue to be an incredibly inviting target for carjackers, though some drivers will undoubtably decide that it’s far better to lose their job than lose their life and will quietly violate corporate policy regardless of the potential consequences to their employment. I can’t fault them for doing so, but I do fault Uber and Lyft for putting their drivers in that situation to begin with.