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Is Your Uber Driver Sober?

Probably not the question you want to ask yourself as your rideshare rolls up, but after California's Consumer Protection and Enforcement Division (CPED) fined Uber $1.13 million for failing to investigate reports of inebriated drivers, you might want to double check your driver's breath.

A CPED investigation found that Uber's California operation received 2,047 complaints about drivers being under the influence in just one year between August 12, 2014 and August 31, 2015, and only deactivated drivers in 574 of those complaints, or less than one-third of all allegedly drunken drivers.

A Non-Zero Number of Complaints

The report from CPED is aimed at Rasier-CA, a wholly owned Uber subsidiary that operates UberX in the Golden State. California law requires transportation network companies (TNCs), of which Uber and Rasier are one, to establish a zero-tolerance policy "in order to protect the public against intoxicated drivers." The policy requires TNCs to promptly suspend drivers after a zero-tolerance complaint is filed and then investigate the complaint further.

According to the report, out of the 154 complaints that the agency reviewed, "Rasier failed to promptly suspend drivers in 149 complaints, failed to investigate 133 complaints, and failed to either suspend or investigate 113 complaints." All told, Rasier failed to suspend and/or investigate drivers in 151 out of 154 complaints reviewed. At $7,500 a pop, those 151 violations add up to a total penalty of $1,132,500.

No More Than Zero

In a particularly frightening finding, CPED reports that many drivers we're still logged in and providing rides, even after zero-tolerance complaints:

CPED's investigation identified at least 89 instances where a driver remained logged into the Uber app within one hour after a passenger filed a zero tolerance complaint against him/her. Of those 89 instances, CPED further identified 64 instances where a driver provided one or more rides within one hour after a passenger filed a zero tolerance complaint against him/her.

As it stands, the millions in fines are a recommendation that will require final sign off from an administrative law judge before becoming official. For their part, Uber spokeswoman Eva Behrend told Ars Techinca the company has long since addressed the allegations and "significantly improved our processes" of responding to reports of drunk Uber drivers, adding, "We have zero tolerances for any impaired driving."

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