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Fingerprint Fight Could Drive Uber, Lyft Out Of Maryland

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Could rideshare services, like Uber and Lyft, be driven out of Maryland? The companies are threatening to leave if the state doesn't waive a fingerprinting requirement for drivers.

Some critics argue that's a safety step that can't be overlooked.

Ogechi Etuh got behind the wheel for Uber more than a year ago.

"I make my own schedule and I'm able to be there when my kids need me," said Etuh.

Uber is an app offering on-demand private drivers, but Etuh and others worry it may soon leave Maryland.

"It really would devastate income for myself and a lot of other people," said Robyn Bland, Uber driver.

The company is asking for a waiver to a law requiring them to fingerprint drivers using a state and FBI database.

"We think our process is as comprehensive and accurate and we don't want to add unnecessary barriers," said Tom Hayes, Uber Maryland.

Uber has already pulled out of Austin, Texas and Broward County, Florida, following similar disputes.

Some critics argue private background checks are not enough.

"Someone could have a false identification or tell you they're someone," said Doug Ward, Johns Hopkins University.

Public safety expert Doug Ward says fingerprinting can alleviate some big questions.

"You take their fingerprints, you run them through the FBI, and low and behold, they're somebody else," he said.

Several incidents have been reported regarding rideshare drivers, including Jonathan Hemming, who was arrested for attempting to shoot police officers in Montgomery County.

Last month, a woman in College Park says her driver took her to a hotel and attacked her.

Still, Uber says they have several safeguards for drivers and passengers, and warns if fingerprinting is mandatory: "We're unfortunately not going to be able to operate in Maryland," Hayes said.

Uber says they have about 30,000 drivers in the state of Maryland.

The Public Service Commission is expected to rule on the waiver by the end of the year.

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