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Rideshare Drivers Teaming Up To Fight For Safety Improvements To Prevent Carjackings

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Would you take a selfie before hopping into an Uber or Lyft? What if the companies gave you a discount? That's just one of the ideas that rideshare drivers in Chicago are suggesting to deter carjackers.

They've banded together with drivers from the East Coast to create a unified safety push. Their petition went live this week.

CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory has an exclusive first look at some of their proposals.

Every morning, rideshare drivers come to Uber offices for help.

It seemed like the perfect opportunity for Kevin Nelson and his team to open up about a just-launched platform called IDG Chicago.

"Independent Drivers Guild is an organization which has represented over 200,000 drivers in New York," Nelson said.

Membership is growing in our area, where the focus is on safety.

Just this weekend, teenage carjackers ordered a ride and stole the vehicle in the South Shore neighborhood. It was one of more than 150 carjackings in Chicago so far this year.

Nelson said he knows of hundreds of rideshare drivers who have said they're not driving until the problem is fixed.

Among them is Mustafa Alawsi, who was carjacked this past fall while driving for Uber.

"I was thinking, you know, he might shoot me any second," Alawsi said.

He's stayed off the roads, but signed on board the new IDG Chicago petition to "End the Carjackings."

Alawsi said it was frightening being the victim of a carjacking, and "that's why we're here."

Nelson said the most immediate change rideshare drivers would like to see is "incorporating a system that passengers need to upload an ID."

That's because some carjackers use burner phones and stolen credit cards to create untraceable accounts.

Other IDG Chicago proposals include:

  • A ban on pre-paid debit cards and gift cards as payment;
  • Real-time app warnings of carjackings or other crimes in the area;
  • Hidden panic buttons for rideshare vehicles;
  • And rear-facing dashboard cameras provided to all drivers;

Nelson said the drivers can't form a union, but organizing in other ways can force change, as evidenced by Aziz Bah and his work with IDG in the New York area.

"That's been very successful," said Bah, organizing director for IDG New York.

Victories include a rideshare driver minimum wage, bathrooms at airport waiting lots, and the option to tip in app.

Although carjackings are a much different issue, Bah said "a win for drivers in one sector, in one market, is a win for drivers everywhere."

It's strength in precedence and numbers.

In a statement, Lyft said, "We appreciate IDG's proposals to increase driver safety and we look forward to working together on these issues."

The rideshare company said it has a strong relationship with IDG since it represents drivers in other states, and also said it has been in contact with Chicago Police and is ready to address the issues with IDG.

Lyft also referred to safety measures for drivers and riders that it has put in place, including a help button that puts drivers in contact with an ADT security professional.

Lyft says customers are encouraged to upload photos to their accounts and the company requires selfies for riders flagged for not wearing a mask.

Uber also said it has a number of safety features for drives – including an emergency button. Also, anyone calling 911 from the Uber app will be shown their own real-time location and details to share with the dispatcher.

Drivers for Uber are also regularly reminded about community guidelines and that they are allowed to cancel a trip if they do not feel safe.

Uber did not answer specific questions about the new Chicago group or petition.

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