Uber Rideshare is Illegal in SC, Charleston Police Will Bust Uber Drivers
The Charleston Police Department announced on July 18th that they had plans to bust Uber drivers, and dissuade Charleston residents from using the mobile rideshare app.
The move came after the police department spoke with local taxi companies. Uber recently launched in four major South Carolina cities – Charleston, Myrtle Beach, Columbia, and Greenville – despite warnings from state and local governments that driving for Uber technically breaks the law in South Carolina.
Concern has been raised in several states across the US about the company’s lack of insurance, which can leave injured passengers in a tough financial spot if they are in a car accident in an Uber vehicle. Both Uber and Lyft recently stated that they insured their drivers in the event of an accident, but because drivers for the companies are independent contractors using their personal vehicles, the companies rely primarily on the driver’s personal insurance.
“I guess you would say they’re operating outside of the law,” said Dawn Hipp with the state Office of Regulatory Staff. “We weren’t able to get a regulatory framework started quickly enough for them or they felt like compliance with state law wasn’t something that they were interested in doing.
“We know that Uber has indicated it has a million-dollar insurance policy that would extend to those drivers, that would fill that gap. However we’ve not seen proof of that,” Hipp added.
The mobile rideshare apps have also been criticized for encouraging distracted driving. A family in San Francisco, the home base of Uber’s company, recently filed a wrongful death lawsuit after an Uber driver struck and killed a 6-year-old girl on New Year’s Day as the family crossed the side walk. Rideshare apps allow drivers to log in and find fares, which the plaintiffs claim encourages Uber’s drivers to look at their phone instead of the road.
Charleston police declared on Friday that Uber violates a number of state and local laws by using personal vehicles to pick up fares, instead of specially-licensed vehicles. Undercover police operations in the city will hand tickets to Uber drivers as high as $1,049, after beginning with warnings.
Concern has also been raised about the quality of Uber’s drivers. Although the rideshare company says that they run background checks on their contract employees, AJ Franklin, an owner of Charleston Green Taxi, reiterated other public concerns by stating that taxi companies are not vetted by proper authorities.
“We have a big public safety issue here, and we need to get them to understand that this a problem … and that we do not intend to ignore it,” City Councilman Bill Moody said.
After learning about the sting operations, Uber spokesman Taylor Bennett said that the company would pay all tickets issued to Uber drivers in Charleston, even if the same driver is busted more than once.
On Tuesday, June 24th, the South Carolina State Office of Regulatory Staff released a statement of public advisory warning potential ridesharing users that uberX/Uber and other such companies do not have adequate insurance or registration with the state, putting passengers at risk of loss in the event of an SC personal injury accident.
“It’s a pretty serious issue,” said Russ Dubisky, executive director of the S.C. Insurance News Service. “My simple advice is just to read the policy and if they don’t have coverage, to make sure that they can get coverage somewhere.”
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