More than 8,000 Uber and Lyft drivers are our of the job after failing state criminal background checks.
Of the 70,789 applications, 11 percent of would-be drivers had driving or criminal records that state law says makes them unfit to drive for ride-sharing services. This number includes 51 applications by sex offenders and 1,559 by drivers who have a history of violent crime, according to data released Wednesday by the Department of Public Utilities.
All the drivers were dismissed by the companies.
The most common reason for rejecting drivers was for a suspended license – 1,640 people were denied for this reason.
Traffic-related offenses accounted for 40 percent of all denials – which Uber says points to problems with the state Criminal Offender Record Information checks – called CORI.
“The new screening includes unfair and unjust indefinite lookback period that has caused thousands of people in Massachusetts to lose access to economic opportunities,” the company said in a statement.
Uber has more than 20,000 active drivers throughout Massachusetts – defined as people who have worked at least once in the past three months.
The company says it puts the safety of its riders first and that it has always subjected it’s drivers to a background check, but Uber says the state’s comprehensive check penalizes potential drivers for minor crimes far in their past.
Massachusetts officials disagree.
Uber drivers have carried out several high-profile crimes in recent years,
In August, an Uber driver was charged with raping a 16-year-old girl in Everett. In September, an Uber driver was charged with sexual assault in Dorchester. Last year, a Lyft driver convicted of a drug charge in 2010 was accused of stabbing a passenger.
"This past fall there were two very disturbing criminal incidents in Everett involving out-of-town Uber drivers. These statistics show clearly that passengers were potentially at risk before regulations took effect," Mayor Carlo DeMaria said of the background check results.
These arrests spurred lawmakers to pass the nation’s strictest background check law for ride-share drivers, which was signed by Gov. Charlie Baker last year. The law did not require state background checks to begin until next year, but the Uber and Lyft agreed to start the program early – the agreement does not apply to Fasten and Safr, the two other ride-share apps operating in the state.
"Public safety is a top priority for this administration and we are pleased to have completed this first round of in depth background checks a year ahead of schedule," Baker said. "Thanks to the collaboration between this administration and transportation network companies, Massachusetts has set a national standard for driver safety and we look forward to future partnerships with Uber, Lyft and others to grow this innovative industry and support more jobs and economic opportunities for all."
The state offers an appeals process for drivers who believe they have unfairly been denied driving privelages, but Uber says the system itslef might be unfair on drivers. Previously, Uber's background checks for drivers went back seven years. Now, decades-old convictions have the same weight as recent convictions and charges that are continued-without-finding, called CWOFs, are also weighted the same as convictions.
An Uber spokeswoman asked wondered if passengers are really safer because someone who had a DUI at 22 years old is still blocked from driving for Uber at 65.
“We have an opportunity to repair the current system in the rules process so that people who deserve to work are not denied the opportunity," the uber spokeswoman said in a statement.