Rideshare companies face King County officials about passenger safety

May 6, 2019, 4:13 PM

Company officials from Uber and Lyft answered questions Monday afternoon when officials pressed them on recent assaults involving their drivers.

RELATED: Uber responds to potential rideshare tax in Seattle

In the past two months, several allegations of sexual assault were made against their drivers.

King County officials now want to know how the companies are screening drivers.

Members of Metropolitan King County Council’s Government Accountability and Oversight Committee held a meeting on Monday to help answer safety questions, specifically involving how background checks for drivers are handled.

“We believe that our background checks have been demonstrated to be robust, thorough, and fair,” said Uber representative Caleb Weaver during the hearing.

Before Monday’s meeting, Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer says they want to ask what safeguards are in place to protect passengers.

“We have seen an uptick in reports of misconduct and assault by TNC drivers both in the Seattle area and across the country,” said von Reichbauer, who chairs the GAO committee.  “With this hearing, we hope to find out what safeguards Uber and Lyft have in place to ensure that when passengers engage their services, they will be safe and their travel information will be secure.”

Driving the point home, two rideshare drivers were arraigned Monday morning.

Lyft driver Mohammed Hussein was arraigned on one count of indecent liberties, accused of sexually assaulting a woman he picked up on Capitol Hill, after she fell asleep in his car. His bail was set at $10,000.

Another rideshare driver, Ghassan Shakir, was also arraigned Monday.  The 35-year-old pleaded not guilty to charges he handcuffed a woman to his car and sexually assaulted her while working as a Lyft driver.

There are also allegations that Shakir may have raped several women he picked up in Bellevue and SeaTac.  His bail was set at $750,000.

And according to police, Israel Ramos-Islas posed as a rideshare driver and sexually assaulted a woman he picked up outside a Ballard bar.

Riders should always check their apps and make sure the driver’s plates match.

MyNorthwest and KIRO Radio Staff contributed to this report

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Rideshare companies face King County officials about passenger safety