Plunkett: Armed or harmed in the Uber

Rory Plunkett

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by the Collegian or its editorial board.

An Uber driver fatally shot a passenger on June 1 in Denver, and has been charged with first-degree murder. The passenger, Hyun Kim, was 45 years old and was apparently beating Michael Hancock on the head before he was shot.


Hancock’s family says that he was acting in self-defense, and Hancock has declined to give his side of the story to police detectives.

Uber has a company policy which bars drivers and riders from carrying firearms. Uber violence has become an increasing problem, that has culminated in Kim’s death and Hancock’s sentencing this past week. Both drivers and passengers for Uber have been victims of assault.

There are better options for Uber to take so that they can assure safety for both drivers and passengers.

Safety is an aspect that Uber has overlooked. Drivers should have the right to fight back and defend themselves but should not feel the need to carry a gun. They should enforce more strictly the policy banning drivers from carrying guns, because guns do not create a safe environment for their passengers.

In another horrific case, a woman in San Diego got into the back of an Uber and was so intoxicated she asked if they could stop the car so that she could throw up. She fell asleep in the backseat, and upon regaining consciousness found the driver was raping her just a block away from her house.

The driver, John Sanchez, was arrested and they found videos on his computer of him raping other women and abusing young teenagers, dating back at least five years. This shows how Uber sometimes hires potentially dangerous drivers. Background checks for these drivers are obviously not fool-proof as exemplified by Sanchez.

In November of 2015, a video surfaced of a drunken Taco Bell executive beating an Uber driver. In 2016 a Miami doctor tried to kick a driver before he trashed his car.

Uber drivers often experience uncomfortable situations, most likely resulting from drunken late night rides home, maybe where a group of college kids start daring each other to see who is the most wild. For instance Harry Campbell, an Uber driver, remembers a night when a passenger asked to stop on the side of the road and then proceeded to strip off all of his clothes and run naked around his car before getting back in.

On one side there are the drivers who could easily fall victim to unsafe passengers, possibly multiple of them at the same time, as they are focused on driving and might not foresee any physical harm caused by their passengers; who could very realistically carry a concealed weapon.

Then there are the passengers, who could be entering a strangers car and may be alone and vulnerable to abduction, rape, murder and other acts of assault.


The dilemma is not an easy one to solve. There is not a solution that will not appease everyone. However, the current policy that neither passengers nor drivers are allowed to carry any firearms or lethal weapons, is under heavy speculation from the public.

There are more than a 100 Uber drivers have been accused of sexual assault of some kind, and Uber drivers are more often convicted and charged for crimes than passengers are according to data from THE ORGANIZATION Who’s dRIVING YOU.

According to Who’s Driving You, there are more than a 100 Uber drivers have been accused of sexual assault of some kind. Uber drivers who are more often convicted and charged for crimes than passengers are, though they are more often charged for more serious crimes such as murder and homicide, usually as a result of an accident while driving the car.

While Uber drivers are also susceptible to violence and harm from their passengers, they are also there to serve their customers and provide a safe environment. Uber could provide cameras in all of their driver’s cars to secure accountability for all parties. This would be a compromise for both the driver and the passenger and would decrease the amount of violence during Uber rides.

Passengers should not be allowed to carry guns either, but a safer compromise would be to allow and maybe even encourage passengers to carry less extreme self-defense equipment such as pepper spray.

If Uber commits more effort to assure the safety of their drivers while enforcing their ban on firearms, and offers options for their passengers in the case that they feel unsafe, both sides will feel more comfortable.           

Rory Plunkett can be reached or online at: @jericho.wav