Try 3 months for $3

More bad news for Uber.

A Chicago NBC affiliate decided to check out the controversial rideshare company’s claim that it conducts background checks on its drivers, who connect with customers though a smartphone app to provide rides in their personal cars. So they lined up rides with five Uber drivers in the Windy City.

“We ran background checks on these drivers and discovered ticket after ticket for speeding, illegal stops and running lights,” says the NBC5 reporter in this news clip. “Even this driver with 26 traffic tickets passed Uber’s background check.”

What’s more: “Not one of the five drivers knew his way around the city.”

It gets worse. The news station also recruited a “reformed California criminal” with a rap sheet about a mile long to apply online to be an Uber driver. And guess what? She was approved.

“Uber says it does not hire anyone with severe driving violations or convictions in the last seven years for violent crimes, felonies, sexual offenses, drugs or DUIs,” says the reporter. The reformed criminal, she reports, “has priors in California for burglary, drugs and assault and is still on probation. Yet after she filled out Uber’s online application, this ex-con was hired to be a driver.”

The investigation made no mention of rideshare competitor Lyft, the other company that’s been operating in Madison, despite orders from the city to cease, since late February.

But it provides more fodder to groups calling for the brakes to be put on unregulated ride services.

"Why would any city official allow Uber, or any other unlicensed ‘ridesharing’ company, to operate in their city given these scathing reports?" says Dave Sutton, spokesman for Who's Driving You, an initiative launched by the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association.

The news segment reports that Uber boasts 8,400 background checks so far this year, flagging 15 percent of them, “yet we found plenty of ex-cons that made it through.”

As Madison as it gets: Get Cap Times' highlights sent daily to your inbox

Like one guy who has a 2012 drunken driving conviction. He was hired and later arrested for battery, hit with a restraining order then sued in civil court after a passenger accused him of sexual assault.

Or like Syed Muzaffar, who hit and killed a 6-year-old girl in San Francisco, but has a prior conviction for reckless driving. He’s being sued for a wrongful death, but since he didn’t have a fare in the car, Uber is fighting claims that the company has any liability in the incident.

The NBC5 report says that while Uber claims that it insures each driver with a $1 million commercial liability policy, the policy is an extension of the driver’s personal auto insurance. If the driver’s insurance is dropped, so is the commercial policy.

"So Uber drivers continue to operate under the assumption they are insured,” the reporter says. “While passengers could potentially pay a price beyond the fare charged by the app.”

Sign up to receive free subscriptions to our email newsletters

Never miss anything! Stay updated with our latest news, commentary and other features via e-mail.

Your information will not be shared with third parties.

Please see our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service for more information.

I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site consitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Subscribe to Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Steven Elbow joined The Capital Times in 1999 and has covered law enforcement in addition to city, county and state government. He has also worked for the Portage Daily Register and has written for the Isthmus weekly newspaper in Madison.