It’s a growing trend: Parents using rideshare apps to shuttle their kids around town while they’re at work.
It wasn’t long after Uber and Lyft entered a new city before busy parents realized this new mode of transportation would be a great way to get their kids home from school. Or get them to soccer practice or a dance lesson after school and then home.
For all the carpooling duties parents have, Uber seemed like a great solution. But, there’s just one problem…
… minors aren’t allowed to take an Uber or a Lyft unless they are accompanied by an adult.
And keep in mind – “adult” doesn’t necessarily mean their parents. It just means someone 18 years old or older. It could be an older brother or sister or an older friend.
After so many stories of passenger sexual assault at the hands of Uber drivers have come out, it’s a real mystery why any parent today would entrust their child to ride unaccompanied with an Uber or Lyft driver. But they do.
Many parents simply ignore the unaccompanied-minor rule and call a ride for their children. And it is causing Uber and Lyft drivers a MASSIVE headache.
In this post we’ll talk about Uber’s policy on minors, Lyft’s policy on minors, and what drivers can do to best navigate this tricky situation.
- Uber’s Minor Policy
- Lyft’s Minor Policy
- Why Are Minors A Problem For Drivers?
- The Cancellation Problem
- Solution: Dash Cams
Both Uber and Lyft have their own set of rules about transporting unaccompanied minors.
They both explicitly don’t allow users under the age of 18 to setup an account or use their services without an adult present.
“A rider must be at least 18 years of age to have an Uber account and request rides. Anyone under 18 must be accompanied by someone 18 years of age or older on any ride.”
Then to drivers they say:
“As a driver-partner, you should decline the ride request if you believe the person requesting the ride is under 18. When picking up riders, if you feel they are underage, you may request they provide a driver’s license or ID card for confirmation. If a rider is underage, please do not start the trip or allow them to ride.”
This last portion of their rule about what drivers should do in the case of minors is a new addition to their rule on minors. In the past they didn’t say anything about what drivers should do.
What they are currently saying, sounds more like a request than an order. Drivers should check for ID if they “feel” a passenger is underage. That’s not exactly an iron clad rule.
What if an underage riders who looks and acts more mature doesn’t make the driver “feel” he is underage? Will the driver get into trouble with Uber if they find out? No, they can’t because they can just claim they didn’t “feel” like the passenger was underage.
This ambiguity oftentimes creates confusion among drivers, and many simply give the ride and hope nothing happens. You can see why drivers are so worried about this policy.
Lyft’s rules on unaccompanied minors sounds slightly tougher than Uber’s but in reality it’s about the same. Lyft says:
“Unaccompanied minors are prohibited from traveling with most carriers, including TNCs. A passenger must be 18 to sign up for a Lyft account, but if a driver believes a passenger might be underage, the driver may ask the passenger to confirm their age.”
And to drivers they say:
“The driver may also let a passenger know that the driver will have to cancel the trip if the passenger is indeed under 18. In addition, drivers can report requests to transport unaccompanied minors by tapping ‘Contact Support’ below.”
Notice that Lyft gives drivers a way to report unaccompanied minors who try to ride on the system. Uber doesn’t. This shows that Lyft takes this a little more seriously. Lyft also invokes the law, not just their own rules, when they say, “Unaccompanied minors are prohibited from traveling with most carriers, including TNCs”.
Lyft doesn’t make rules concerning other carriers and TNCs (Transportation Network Companies), so they are invoking state laws when they mention that. On the surface, then, they are making a stronger statement against drivers transporting minors. But in reality, both Uber and Lyft put the onus on the underage riders themselves and their parents to follow this rule.
Uber says a driver should refuse a passenger if they “feel” they are underage and Lyft says drivers should do the same if they “believe” they are underage.
Both “feel” and “believe” are very subjective. Neither company orders its drivers to check IDs of all passengers! So they cannot hold the driver ultimately responsible for transporting minors.
I’ve driven thousands of passengers and there are probably a thousand whose faces I’ve never seen. When you’re driving, you sit in the front seat (obviously) and you don’t usually turn your head all the way around to look at a passenger when they get in. If you did, it would surely make them feel a little uncomfortable.
And you can’t really look at them in the rearview mirror either. That would make them feel even more uncomfortable! In a lot of cars, as well, you can’t even see a passenger in the backseat from the rearview mirror that well.
So yes, there are a lot of cases when a driver might not even see a passenger and would have no idea that they might be underage.
Most drivers get pretty upset when a suspected minor gets in their car. One reason is because in our society any bad behavior with a minor is considered far more serious than it would be with an adult.
For instance, if a passenger is acting in an unruly way, a driver could pull over at the next safe location and boot them out of the car and it’s not going to be a big problem as long as the passenger is an adult. But if the passenger is a child, that driver could be in a heap of trouble!
“What do you mean, you dumped a CHILD off at a gas station 3 miles from their home?” would come the incredulous response. In our cultural context doing something like that with someone who is legally considered a child could quickly turn the driver into a local pariah.
There are some protections in place to protect riders from harm and drivers from liability. Drivers, after all, must pass a series of background checks before they are put on the road. This is an essential step in weeding out drivers with bad intentions or that have a storied past. But, the false accusations of a minor can still cripple a driver’s life.
The problem for drivers, however, is that as one driver said, “It’s hard to tell some of the college kids from high school kids.” It’s not always easy to tell who is over 18 and who is under. Especially the kids who are very close to being 18. And drivers don’t have the backing from Uber and Lyft to card every passenger.
Lyft and Uber don’t tell passengers that they have asked drivers to check their ID – nor would they ever. So, if our conscientious driver decides to card every person who looks like they might be anywhere near 18 or under, his driver rating will plummet as annoyed 18- and 19-year-olds will surely consistently give him 1 star! Even if the rider wasn’t the real account holder, but just a passenger whose parents’ called a ride, they can still leave a bad rating.
Drivers are really between a rock and a hard place. They risk getting a low rating if they ask the wrong person for their ID. And they risk serious trouble if there’s any kind of incident with a minor in the car.
Up until recently, another big problem for rideshare drivers when it came to minors was how they should handle cancellations. Should they cancel when a minor gets in the car?
Here’s the amazing thing. While Uber asked drivers to cancel trips if they discovered the passenger was an unaccompanied minor, they used to not list “unaccompanied minor” as the reason for cancellation. So, if you did the right thing and played by their rules and cancelled any pickups from unaccompanied minors, you could be penalized for doing so.
They have since added unaccompanied minors as a reason for cancellation. However, they have never told drivers whether or not they still penalize them for these cancellations. Today they say cancellations don’t count against drivers. But evidence has emerged while perhaps they’re no longer actively deactivating drivers for having too many deactivations, they may be doing so passively.
We now know that Uber takes other factors into consideration other than just the driver’s distance from the rider when deciding which driver to send to a rider. They now take each driver’s distance from the rider, their rating, their cancellation and acceptance rates along with several other factors into consideration when deciding which nearby driver to send to a passenger.
So while they say they no longer deactivate drivers for high cancellation rates, they deactivate them in substance by sending them fewer trip requests.
Drivers know that if they cancel a minor and choose “Unaccompanied minor” as the reason in the app, they could still be penalized with fewer trips for the cancellation.
This is a big problem with Uber and Lyft both on this and many other issues. They often put drivers in a predicament where they will be hurt no matter what they do. In this case, if the driver carried the minor and the minor decided to file some charge against the driver, even without evidence, the driver could be immediately deactivated.
On the other hand, if the driver cancels the trip and refuses to provide service, Uber will penalize him for cancelling the trip by sending him fewer trips in the future. And it is because of that that they should never hold a cancellation against a driver when the driver cancelled in order to follow Uber’s own rules.
The best protection for drivers who have any allegations brought against them by a child is to have a dash cam that records video and audio of the interior of the car. This way if the driver is accused of anything by a minor, he or she will have video (and audio) to prove it didn’t happen.
Minors, just like anybody else, have been known to file false charges. So, since it is always a possibility and since a charge filed by a minor is far more serious than a charge from an adult, drivers’ best protection is to have it all on tape.
Lyft and Uber Minor Policy FAQ
To better help you, we’ve collected the most common questions about these policies on underage riders.
How old do you have to be to use Uber?
Uber’s Terms of Service require all riders to be at least 18 years to have an Uber account and request a ride. Riders under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult, which is somebody over the age of 18.
How old do you have to be to drive for Lyft?
Lyft drivers must be over the age of 21, and hold a current driver’s license in the state in which they’re sign up to drive. They also must have a clean driving record and a vehicle that has passed a Lyft-sponsored vehicle inspection.