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8,200 Drivers Fail Background Checks For Uber, Lyft In Massachusetts

BOSTON (CBS/AP) — Massachusetts officials say more than 10 percent of people who applied to drive for ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft failed a required background check, though the company and some drivers call the process unfair.

Related: I-Team: New Law For Uber, Lyft Drivers Backfiring?

More than 62,000 drivers were approved, including some who applied to drive for both companies.

More than 8,200 failed the background checks, which are required under a 2016 state law that officials have called the most stringent in the country.

Of the applicants who were denied, the figures released Wednesday show the largest number were turned away because their license had been suspended, they had been licensed to drive for less than three years, or they had multiple serious driving offenses.

More than 300 applicants had felony convictions on their record and 51 were registered sex offenders.

Uber officials criticized the screening process as "unfair and unjust" to drivers.

"To have Uber or the state say that I'm not qualified to drive passengers is a blow to my self-esteem, a blow to my pride and now a blow to my livelihood," said driver Erik Scott.

uber driver
Uber driver Erik Shaw. (WBZ-TV)

Scott said he has never been convicted of a crime, but failed the background test because of cases from 22 years ago that were dismissed.

"The new screening includes an unfair and unjust indefinite look back period that has caused thousands of people in Massachusetts to lose access to economic opportunities," said Uber in a statement.

Gov. Charlie Baker said the checks are done for rider safety, but added that if tweaks need to be made there is still time to do so.

"From our point of view, making people safe and ensuring that the folks who drive are folks who should be able to drive. Folks who have significant issues with their background shouldn't be able to drive," said Baker.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh called the background checks a necessary move.

As we have consistently said, strong background checks are necessary to maintain and improve the safety of ride for hire services. I have spoken out about the need for strong background checks, and am glad additional safeguards are being taken to protect Boston's residents, visitors and workers. Safety is our first priority. As Mayor, I will continue to encourage strict regulations and background checks for all ride-share companies operating in Boston.

Scott said he believes there should be background checks, but adds that he shouldn't be punished when he was never convicted.

"I don't want someone with a violent crime driving me and my wife out to dinner. However, if it was dismissed he was not proven guilty and he deserves to make a living," said Scott.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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