What could be more convenient for parents than ridesharing companies that take kids to and from school or to the movies? Parents order a ride via two of the largest services, Uber and Lyft, and their children are off to their destination.
Easy, but is it allowed?
It’s not, says David, 44, a Canyon Country resident and Lyft driver who asked that his last name not be used.
He is now telling parents to stop sending their children on unaccompanied rides and warning drivers they are not allowed to take requests.
“After I drove around two kids, I felt really uncomfortable,” he said. “Then I looked through Lyft’s policies and found out that it wasn’t allowed. So, I stopped, but I’m concerned that one day a teen might end up in the wrong car.”
Lyft and Uber have policies, listed in their terms of service, prohibiting drivers from transporting minors when not accompanied by an adult. Those found in violation, either driver or parent, can be permanently banned from both companies.
Lyft spokesperson Lauren Alexander said the company supports drivers “in declining or canceling rides for those not following this policy, and communicate that their decision to do so will not negatively impact their rating.”
Uber even set up a program to allow teen licenses for drivers in some states but it was later terminated to “consider how to best serve the needs of families,” according to its website. Until then, Uber said to report through the app if one suspects a minor is using the service.
Since the start of the school year, David said he has received approximately six to eight requests from minors, many of them elementary school students, every morning.
“Once, I had a lady put her 11 and five-year-old kids in my back seat,” he said. “I told her, ‘I’m sorry. I can’t take your children,’ but she just cursed at me and left. I was left with the kids in my car.”
In other occasions, requests come from a parent’s account, but when he arrives for pickup, only a child is waiting. “When I reject kids, (they) will just tell me, ‘OK, I’ll just call another one.’ Then the driver behind me comes and takes the kids.”
David learned that many of the drivers who transport minors within the Santa Clarita Valley travel from Los Angeles and as far as Orange County. He said this might be because drivers are constantly looking for as many riders as possible, relying on 15 to 20 rides per day to make a living.
“Someday something bad will happen, and that’s when people will take action,” David said. “I want to do something now.”
He said he feels the topic is not discussed as frequently as needed, so he’s informing drivers and parents about the policy whenever possible. He has even sat down with Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station deputies and local school officials.
Traffic Sgt. Scott Shoemaker said while he has not heard of any incidents stemming from the matter, he reminds parents to “make proper arrangements to get kids from A to B. If they are going to try and hire an Uber, there’s a risk associated with everything you do.”
Public transportation is also available, city Transit Manager Adrian Aguilar said. He estimates that at least 25 percent of riders are minors and several routes accommodate service to work in tune with school schedules.