Lyft Updates Safety Policies Amid Sexual Assault Lawsuit

Lyft has updated its safety policies as it faces a lawsuit filed by 14 women who say the company failed to protect them from being sexually assaulted by their drivers while using the ride-sharing app.

On Tuesday, Lyft President John Zimmer announced the changes, which include a feature that requires a company representative to check in with a customer if their ride appears to have an unexplained delay. Lyft will also add an option to call 911 or the company directly from the app during a ride and will require all Lyft drivers to complete additional safety training beginning in the fall.

Any driver who is reported for violating company guidelines will either be removed from the platform or required to have more training, according to Lyft. 

“Bottom line: Safety must be an ongoing focus for everyone in transportation, and it’s our responsibility to continue raising the bar,” Zimmer, the app’s co-founder, said in a statement.

A lawsuit, filed in San Francisco last week, accused Lyft of failing to adequately respond to nearly 100 customer reports of harassment or abuse from their drivers and refusing to report some of those assaults to law enforcement. 

Michael Bomberger, one of the attorneys representing the women in the lawsuit, called Lyft’s policy changes a “cheap public relations stunt” and said the new safety policy would be ineffective at preventing the company’s “assault crisis.”

“Any proposed safety measures should have been implemented years ago when Lyft was aware of the assault crisis in their vehicles,” Bomberger said in a statement to HuffPost. “The proposed changes announced today contain no real measures to prevent sexual assaults and rape.”

Two of the women suing Lyft urged the company to install more effective safety features during a press conference last week. The women called for the company to require in-car cameras, better GPS tracking to automatically alert the company if a driver goes off-course and an in-app panic button. 

Gladys Arce, who said she was kidnapped by her driver and raped at a beach, believes her assault could have been avoided if the company vetted their drivers better and recorded drives on camera.

“Make no mistake: There are serious crimes that must be stopped,” she said last week. “What happened to me must never happen again.”

Bomberger said that over 20 women have contacted his law firm with more allegations of rape and assault in the last five days.

“Lyft has been aware of the staggering number of assaults and rapes that occur in their vehicles for years,” Bomberger said. He accused the company of concealing the true numbers of reports from the public.