Reason Roundup

The Chance of Your Uber Ride Ending in a Rape Is .00002%

Plus: Free trade and free speech, a teen's death in detention, and more...


99.9 percent of Uber rides are safe, according to the latest U.S. safety report from the ridesharing company. Nonetheless, the report—which covers 2017–2018—has been raising a lot of concern, fear, and outrage, thanks to a section on sexual assault.

Over the two-year period, the company says, around 6,000 sexual assaults took place during Uber rides. Some people seem to be taking this as meaning 6,000 Uber passengers were physically assaulted by their drivers. But according to the company's calculations, "drivers report assaults at roughly the same rate as riders across the 5 most serious categories of sexual assault."

In addition, the "most serious categories of sexual assault" includes such acts as non-sexual kissing on the head or cheek.

Needless to say, neither riders nor drivers should have to deal with unwanted physical contact of any sort. But when we think about how to make services like Uber safer, it's important to keep in mind that contractors for these companies need protection too. Right now, the narrative about ridesharing services and sexual assault in popular culture has been almost entirely focused on the threat Uber drivers might pose to customers.

It's also important to keep a sense of perspective. Uber facilitated nearly 4 million U.S. trips every day last year, according to the company. In 2017 and 2018, it averaged 3.1 million trips per day. Uber drivers completed a total of 2.3 billion trips over those two years.

Of these billions of trips, only 0.0003 percent included a report of a "critical safety incident," defined as a lethal accident, a physical assault resulting in death, or any sort of sexual assault.

The company defines "sexual assault" as "any physical or attempted physical contact that is reported to be sexual in nature and without the consent of the user. This can include incidents within the taxonomy ranging from Attempted Touching of a Non-Sexual Body Part (e.g., a user trying to touch a person's shoulder in a sexual/romantic way) to Non-Consensual Sexual Penetration."

In 2017–2018, Uber trips with critical safety incidents resulted in 126 fatalities, including:

  • 107 deaths from motor vehicle accidents (across 97 crashes), with about one fifth of the fatalities being Uber riders, one fifth Uber drivers, and the rest third parties, and
  • 19 deaths from physical assaults, including the deaths of eight riders, seven drivers, and four third parties.

Sexual assaults were reported in by category, with 45 percent of reported incidents involving riders as the accused party and 54 percent involving drivers. Reports were made by riders in 56 percent of alleged sexual assault incidents and by drivers 42 percent of the time.

To be classified as an Uber-related assault, the company required it to have occured during an active Uber-facilitated trip ("not necessarily with parties paired by the Uber app"), or between parties paired by the app within 48 hours of the trip's completion.

Over the two-year period, Uber saw around 4,792 incidents of unwanted kissing or touching reported, including:

  • 1,164 reports of non-consensual kissing of a non-sexual body part
  • 766 reports of non-consensual kissing of a sexual body part
  • 3,000 reports of non-consensual touching of a sexual body part

More than half—54 percent—of reports of unwanted non-sexual kissing attempts came from drivers. "The majority (roughly 60%) of reports in this category involved a person kissing another person's cheek or neck," the report says.

The company had 464 reports of rape (or "non-consensual sexual penetration," as Uber puts it) and 587 additional reports of attempted rape. Seventy-two percent of reports in these categories were made by riders. Any attempts to remove a person's clothes "to access a sexual body part" were classified in the attempted rape category. "For example, an incident report stating that a rider tried to pull up a female driver's shirt would be classified as Attempted Non-Consensual Sexual Penetration, despite the lack of further details of the incident, since there was an attempt to remove clothing to access the breasts," Uber states.

Across all of the five categories, assaults were down 16 percent in 2018 from 2017.



Video undermines official account of detainee death. Video from the night of migrant teen Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez's death seems "to contradict the government's assurances about how Mr. Hernandez Vasquez was cared for," The New York Times reports:

Following Mr. Hernandez Vasquez's death, a news release stated that he was discovered by federal agents during a welfare check. But a video recording provided by the Police Department in Weslaco, Texas, which initially investigated the case, shows that his death was flagged by his cellmate. Customs and Border Protection officials have not explained why the recording—in which the teenager vomits blood on the floor, his body crumpling and squirming in apparent distress—has a four-hour gap or why the nurse practitioner's advice was ignored.


Read Eric Boehm on Pelosi's bad ideas for our trade deal with Canada and Mexico.


  • The sex-trafficking law FOSTA "hasn't actually prevented child trafficking," says U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna. "If anything, it's had websites turning a blind eye to it and forced it underground." 
  • Documentary filmmakers are suing over the Trump administration's social-media disclosure law for foreign travelers.
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is considering a massive spike in genealogy record fees.