For nearly two years, Jessie Stokes Oliver traversed San Diego’s freeways late at night, delivering meals and dropping off riders as a gig driver for DoorDash, Lyft and Uber. She preferred to work late because there was less traffic, and she never felt unsafe.
Then two events house the risks of the business. On a routine delivery trip last summer, his nephew Keshon, who also worked for Doordarshan, was shot twice in the head by a passing driver. The 19-year-old survived, but the shooter has not been found.
Just a few weeks later, Stokes Oliver, 44, was trying to leave a cigarette and 12-pack of soda at a property for DoorDash, with a man standing nearby following him to the door. As she bent down to drop the package, she saw from the corner of her eye holding a gun. He pulled out his phone to snap a picture, and he backed away. She quickly got into her car and ran away with her 10-year-old son in the back seat.
“That was the last day I drove to DoorDash. It made me very uncomfortable,” said Stokes Oliver, who later moved to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. “I realized we are not safe.”
The dangers faced by Stokes Oliver and his nephew are clear examples of incidents gathered in a report released Wednesday by a driver advocacy group called Gig Workers Rising. The report said that at least 50 gig drivers working for companies such as Uber, Lyft and DoorDash had been killed on the job in the United States since 2017.
There has been a great deal of attention given to the risks posed to ride-hailing passengers when entering a stranger’s vehicle, but groups of drivers and family members of killed drivers say they hope the report addresses less attention-seeking concern. Will expose: There is a risk that passengers may come across drivers themselves.
Although the report relies mostly on public accounts already in the news media, it is notable in part because it is the most recent count of violence against drivers since Uber and Lyft released their safety reports years ago.
In late 2019, Uber said more than 3,000 people were sexually assaulted, nine murdered and 58 killed in the United States in its first safety report in 2018. Uber promised to release a new report every two years but has yet to release another. It plans to do so this spring.
Lyft’s first safety report was released last year and said that in 2019 about 1,800 people were sexually assaulted in the United States, four were killed in physical assaults and nearly 50 were killed in accidents.
Uber, Lyft and DoorDash said in statements that they kept security in mind on their platforms with features such as ADT, the ability to engage with people in a security firm, or share location information through ride-hailing apps. were made.
It’s hard to compare how dangerous gig driving is with other occupations, although the Bureau of Labor Statistics does make some fatal occupational injuries public. But Gig Workers Rising argues that the risks of gig work stand for more than just the number of deaths.
The report notes that because gig drivers are often classified as independent contractors rather than employees, they often receive less support from the companies they work for.
In some cases, Gig Workers Rising said, family members of deceased drivers never heard from the companies they drove for or received death benefits or assistance with insurance claims or funeral services.
DoorDash said it spoke to Stokes’ Oliver’s family and helped them file a claim with their insurance.
In August, Isabella Lewis, a Lyft driver, was killed in Texas after a random attack by a passenger who police believed to be a terrorist. After shooting her in the head, the man pulled her out of the vehicle and ran into her car and crushed her. According to news reports, he later died of the wounds he received in a shootout with the police.
Lewis’ sister, Alyssa Lewis-Brown, said the damage was still not completely done.
“It still hasn’t hit that I’ll never see her again,” said Louise-Brown, 23, who remembered her sister as caring and protective. “It just blows my mind. You think you have more time with people.”
She said she hopes her story and the driver’s death report will inspire ride-hailing companies to find a way to keep drivers safe, perhaps by vigorously screening passengers before using the services. Lyft, she said, never spoke with him.
“At least you can pay for funeral expenses,” she said.
Lyft said it had tried to reach Lewis’s family but was unsuccessful.