AUSTIN (KXAN) — An Austin Uber driver has a warning for parents.
He said teenagers are requesting rides on the app and drivers are taking them where they want to go.
That’s despite the fact that Uber requires riders be at least 18.
But there’s a lot at stake when a minor hails a ride.
“She told me, ‘I am 16 years old,’” described Lee, an Uber driver in Austin. “Lee” is an alias he asked KXAN to call him. He feared if he used his real name, he may face repercussions from the ride-sharing company.
He shared the impact of this moment in his driving career, saying he had to make a tough decision.
“I said, ‘Ma’am, are you not aware that you are not allowed to ride in an Uber alone when you are under 18?’”
After refusing, he said his role changed from chauffeur to witness.
“Another Uber pulls up and they take off.”
An Uber spokeswoman said the company will investigate account holders and drivers who don’t follow the rules. There’s a 24/7 customer support team that investigates reports.
Uber also reminds drivers that canceling trips for this reason will not affect their ratings or account status. A guidance reminder was recently sent out to drivers to remind them of the rules when it comes to minor riders.
Lee’s been driving for Uber for over three years. He said minors hopping into cars happens far more often than you might think.
Earlier this year, a 12-year-old from Florida took her own life after receiving a late-night Uber ride. Lee said the driver should have taken steps to keep that from ever happening.
“If that driver would have stopped and said, ‘hey, where are you going?’ That child probably would have been alive today.”
“I really don’t feel that they are safe unless there are more safety measures in place,” said Mahnaz Vatankhah, a mother of two who lives in Austin.
Several moms KXAN spoke to shared reasons why it might make sense: It’s a tempting solution for busy families and it’s important to strike a balance in a teenager’s search for independence. But they agreed, ride-sharing should always be taken seriously, no matter your age.
“If I am an adult and I get scared of an Uber, I can’t imagine letting my kid into an Uber,” said Hayat Shaban, another mother of two. “We are just going to have to rely on someone we trust. Another mom, a neighbor, someone that you truly trust.”
In the wake of these ride-sharing rules, startups are trying to cater specifically to parents who need to get their kids from place to place.
A service called Shuddle launched in 2014. Drivers were hand-selected through an extensive screening process. But it collapsed two years later after burning through millions in funding.
Since then, other startups including HopSkipDrive, Kango, Zemcar, Zum and Bubbl have launched. Most are operating in California. But both Zum and Bubble say they’ve recently started operating in Dallas.