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Uber, Lyft Are Rolling Out Security Improvements Amid Carjackings And Attacks, But Is That Enough For Rideshare Drivers To Feel Safe?

CHICAGO (CBS) -- We are digging deeper into a growing problem in the city – rideshare drivers violently attacked by their own passengers.

Uber and Lyft said they are rolling out new security improvements. But CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey asked – is it enough to get drivers back behind the wheel?

Lenny Sanchez is one of a growing number of Uber and Lyft drivers who have been threatened with violence or even assaulted by their own passengers.

"He Immediately got in my vehicle, brandished the weapon, told me he was going to blow my head off," Sanchez said.

After that, he said at least for now, he's taking a break. It is not because he can't make money.

"We're seeing drivers are making - they're clearing, some of them, $2500 to $3,000 weekly, easily," said Sanchez, also an organizer for the Independent Drivers Guild.

But he said even the sky-high fares aren't worth it for him.

"I have kids I have to come home to," Sanchez said. "I got a lot of responsibility at feel like with it, I just can't risk."

Carjackings are continuing to fuel the fear. So far in 2021, there have been at least 651 reported carjackings in the city of Chicago.

That figure is way up from this point in 2020, when there were just 358.

"We're finding that rideshare drivers are victimized at a much higher rate than the general public," said Bryant Greening of the law firm LegalRideshare.

Greening said his driver assault cases continue to climb. He applauds Uber's announcement that they're offering rewards for tips leading to arrests in Chicago carjackings, and Lyft's announcement that they will require an extra layer of account verification from riders who use anonymous payment methods.

But he and Sanchez believe there's one much simpler way to provide safety, and drivers are already required to do it.

"Such as a selfie - making a passenger take a picture of themselves each time they request a ride," Greening said. "Drivers already have to do that before they start working each day. This is one thing that can significantly reduce driver victimization.

The mandatory rider selfie is an option we've been asking about for months. But when we've reached out to both Uber and Lyft specifically about making it a requirement, we have gotten a direct answer.

On Monday, we asked the Mayor's Office. A spokesperson with the Business Affairs and Consumer Protection said they would look into it.

Sanchez said he and other members of the Independent Drivers Guild hope that happens sooner rather than later.

"We want it to be a step in the ordering process to deter carjackers from using the app the way that they have been," he said.

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