I-Team: Uber, Lyft drivers at times willing to overlook child ca - WSMV News 4

I-Team: Uber, Lyft drivers at times willing to overlook child car seat law

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A News 4 I-Team investigation found some Uber and Lyft drivers willing to break a law that protects the most vulnerable passengers.

Can an infant ride in the back of a rideshare without a car seat? 

On an afternoon in late January, the I-Team posed the same question to Uber and Lyft drivers.

Their answers prompted reactions from both police and local moms.

“It’s disturbing,” said Sgt. Mike Carter, of the Belle Meade Police Department.

“There is a problem that needs to be addressed,” said Laurel Orley, the mother of three children.

It's no secret what can happen if a car seat isn't used.

“That child is going to be ripped from your arms and slammed into the back of [the] seat, into [the] windshield,” Sgt. Carter said.

Under state law, kids must use some type of car seat through age eight or until they reach 4’9”, even when you call a Lyft or Uber.

The I-Team called two Lyfts and two Ubers from different locations in Nashville, enlisting the help of fellow I-Team reporter Lindsay Bramson and her two-month-old son, Wyatt.

To be clear, we never drove anywhere. Instead, the I-Team asked a specific question after entering the vehicle; “Before we go anywhere, I just want to make sure, is it ok if we don't have a car seat?”

“Uh, yeah? I mean, I'm not, I don't have kids, I'm not very knowledgeable about that, but that should be fine,” said the first driver.

When it became clear there was no car seat, the I-Team exited the vehicle.

“My name’s Alanna Autler, and I'm a reporter with News 4. We are actually doing a test to see if drivers would agree to take kids without car seats,” said reporter Alanna Autler.

“Really?” the driver said. “I have literally no knowledge of the law or any of that.”

Another driver actually brought up the law.

“Hey, before we go anywhere, I just want to ask: Is it ok if we don't have a car seat? My friend just had a baby,” Autler said.

“It's not technically legal,” the driver said. “How far we going?"

That's right—the driver acknowledged he'd be breaking the law but agreed to do it anyway.

“Before we go anywhere, is that ok?” Autler asked.

“Yeah. If it's ok with you,” the driver said.

Then when the I-Team confronted the driver, he backtracked.

“Are you aware of the state law?” Autler asked.

“Oh yeah, I have four grandkids,” the driver replied.

For all four rides, drivers agreed to transport the I-Team without the proper car seat.

Only one driver traveled with some type of safety device. But even that seat failed to meet the legal requirements for an infant.

“So you don't have a car seat?” the I-Team asked.

“I have a booster,” the driver said. “It’s up to you guys. I don't mind.”

Under company policies, both Lyft and Uber drivers can transport kids as long as the proper car seat is provided by the riders.

If not, drivers are encouraged to cancel the trip.

Both companies declined repeated requests for on-camera interviews.

But soon after the I-Team hit the road, Uber sent a message to its local drivers, reiterating the state law on child car seats.

After learning what the I-Team found, Orley said it's clear rideshare drivers need more training on the current law.

“It tells me they are too lax and don't understand the severity of the situation if an accident were to occur,” Orley said.

Parents could also be held liable if they do not provide a car seat, according to the state law.

The violation amounts to a $50 fine and possibly a safety course.

Uber released the following statement:

“Uber's community guidelines lay out our expectation that drivers using the Uber app follow all relevant state, federal, and local laws and the rules of the road at all times. Drivers and riders who violate these guidelines risk losing access to Uber."

Lyft released a statement:

“Lyft passengers are welcome to bring children in the car, provided they have the proper car seats that fit local and state legal requirements. Safety is our top priority, and young children should not be traveling in any vehicle -- a personally owned car, a taxi, or a ride share vehicle -- without the proper safety equipment.

Drivers should know that they have our full support declining a ride for passengers who do not follow Lyft’s safety policies, and their decision to do so will not impact their rating. We periodically remind drivers of this policy through Driver’s Digest emails and notifications. We ask that anyone concerned about a specific incident contact our Critical Response Line immediately so we can take the appropriate action.”

Both companies are currently piloting programs in other places such as New York City that would allow customers to order a vehicle that comes with a car seat.

Neither company offers the option in Nashville.

State law appears to exempt taxi cabs from the child passenger restraint requirement, according to Megan Buell, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security.

Copyright 2018 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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