Palm Beach County Votes To Keep Uber

Aug 19, 2015

Credit tallahassee.com

Palm Beach County lovers of Uber, fear not. The car service is sticking around, at least until September.

The County Commission voted Tuesday afternoon to reject an ordinance that requires Uber drivers to get an FBI level two background check and register their vehicles with their insurance companies.

Last month Broward County adopted more regulations for Uber. The car service then left the county.

Commissioners backtracked on their decision because of public demand. Now Uber may return to Broward.

In Palm Beach close to 40 members of the public spoke at a county commission hearing that lasted about six hours.

The room was packed.

The commission was considering tougher background checks for Uber drivers because of safety concerns.

Michael Deckinger is an Uber driver in Palm Beach County. He has no problem with extra background checks but believes the app is already very safe.

“They get my name, my picture and my license number. Some of them forward that ahead to loved ones saying ‘Mike’s coming to pick me up.’ They feel comfortable, they feel safe, and they are safe,” said Deckinger.

Uber said it would leave if those rules passed.

These new restrictions would’ve put Uber drivers through the same screening as taxi drivers and other car services.

Arielle Richardson is the executive vice president of a Palm Beach County vehicle-for-hire service called Metro Taxi. She says that she wants a level playing field.

Uber representatives set up outside the Palm Beach County Commission meeting to talk to residents.
Credit Lisann Ramos

“If there are provisions in place that provide equal opportunity for success, that’s what we are asking for,” said Richardson.

Cesar Fernandez is a public policy associate for Uber. He believes the current background checks are safe enough.

“What we did today was that we basically provided a framework that allows for the county to have accountability. To make sure we’re providing safe transportation, that vehicles are inspected, that every driver has a background check,” said Fernandez.

Those in favor of the checks cited children’s safety as the reason. Uber’s terms and services state that passengers using the app cannot be under 18 unless accompanied by an adult.

Some parents at the meeting said drivers have never denied their children a ride, thus violating the terms.  

Palm Beach County Mayor Shelley Vana was on the losing side of the vote. She believes that if drivers are picking up underage children they should have a level two background check:

“If you walk on a school and you’re going to do anything with those children, if you’re gonna volunteer, if you’re gonna teach, if you’re gonna put food on a platter, drive a schoolbus, all of those things require a level two background check."

Uber says it deactivates the account of drivers caught picking up minors.

The commission will now draft a new ordinance. Instead of stricter background checks for Uber drivers, commissioners will propose fewer regulations for all car services.