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Uber / Lyft drivers worry about safety after attacks

Posted at 12:58 PM, Jul 15, 2018

Uber and Lyft drivers are taking drastic measures to protect themselves. Three violent encounters with rideshare drivers have occurred in a San Diego in just the last few months.

Drivers tell 10News, a sister station of 13 Action News, that they feel the companies care more about the bottom line than safety. Some even said the companies seem to care more about rider safety than drivers.

Drivers with both companies were suspended in the last few months until Uber and Lyft realized they were indeed just protecting themselves.

Lyft driver Ali Kendirli recently spent the night in jail after stabbing a passenger in self-defense.   

He says the rider threw him to the ground and attacked him first. Lyft "permanently deactivated" him.

"They didn't even wait until the court said something about it," Kendirli said. "Drivers are suffering out of this situation."

The DA never filed any charges.

With more than 15,000 rides, Amy Shaw has faced her share of challenges as an Uber driver.  

"Somebody performed oral sex in the back seat of my car," she told 10News. 

Back in May, she was part of another local self-defense case involving pepper spray.  

"One of them threw candy at me and then he came around to my window and was harassing me more, so I pepper sprayed him," Shaw said. 

Uber suspended her, but she was later reinstated when she called 10News and they called Uber. 

"I'm done with people thinking that they can do whatever they want just because they're in my car," she said. 

Shaw has now installed a dash cam and as a last resort - carries a knife.

"Would I do it to save my own life? Yes," Shaw said. "Not only do I want to get them home safely - but I want to get home safely at the end of the night."

Uber released this statement:

"Safety is important to us - whether you're in the back seat or behind the wheel. We are always working to develop technology to improve the driver experience. In an emergency situation, we encourage riders and drivers to always call 911 first." 

The company is preparing to launch a built-in 911 feature in its app for drivers. The feature would let drivers contact authorities with the push of a button - something already available to riders.

RELATED: Rideshare driver stabbed during carjacking, El Cajon Police say 

Regardless of what Uber or Lyft do, more drivers seem to be taking their own precautions. Here's what a few of them told 10News: 

  • "I've been thinking about possibly getting some pepper spray."
  • "I have some pepper spray in my glove box and then, just to be safe, I have some scissors."

While most riders are pleasant, drivers are also calling for more protections.

"You could have a stolen phone, a stolen credit card and have robbed a bank and I'm your getaway car," one driver said. "How do I know?"

One driver told 10News, "my only precaution is I pray." But others want Uber and Lyft to require background checks on riders - just like they do for drivers.

10News reached out to Lyft for more on how they keep drivers safe. We have not yet heard back.