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County regulators ask rideshare companies to boost passenger, driver safety

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SEATTLE – Both Uber and Lyft rideshare companies are vowing to work together with King County regulators to make sure customers and drivers are safe.

A King County Council committee met with both companies Monday to review background checks and safety protocols after two rideshare drivers faced sex-related felony charges.

Regulators say tens of thousands of drivers are registered with Seattle and King County to operate rideshares, and while the vast majority of them don’t break the law, county officials want to minimize the possibility a customer becomes a victim.

“So many people ask drivers to pick up their children after school it’s become almost a need for some families,” said committee chair Pete von Reichbauer.

Regulators tell Q13 they require some of the toughest background checks in the country for rideshare drivers, recent incidents has him wondering if regulators are doing enough.

“We’ve already seen two instances in the past that should raise a lot of alarms,” said von Reichbauer.

Mohamed Hussein, 42, pleaded not guilty Monday to indecent liberty charges. He’s being held in jail on $10,000 bail. Prosecutors claim he touched one of his rideshare passengers inappropriately in early March.

Ghassah Shakir, 34, also pleaded not guilty Monday to kidnapping, second-degree rape and other charges. He’s being held in jail on $750,000 bail for his alleged crimes against a rideshare customer he picked up in Bellevue in January. Prosecutors worry other customers may have been victimized by Shakir.

“No background check is perfect,” said Uber spokesperson Caleb Weaver.

Both Uber and Lyft say their companies review drivers’ records regularly and are always looking for ways to improve safety. Riders now have emergency responders at their fingertips in a worst-case scenario.

“Last year we added a 911 button,” said Weaver. “The dispatcher will instantly see the location.”

Both rideshare companies say customers should always follow these tips before climbing into one of their cars.

First, verify the license plate on the car matches the one in the app – and make sure the vehicle description matches.

Plus, ask for the driver’s name and make sure the driver asks for your yours.

And don’t ever take off-app rides for under the table cash – that way there’s always a record for which driver picks you up and where they’re supposed to take you.

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