Antonio Cartagena, a 25-year-old Macon, Georgia resident, was arrested after being accused of sexually assaulting a Lyft driver. According to The Telegraph, the Duluth Police Department says that Cartagena groped a driver who was transporting him on Oct. 10, and also performed “lewd acts” in the back seat of the car.
Police say Cartagena reached over from his position in the back seat and began inappropriately touching the 55-year-old woman who was driving for the rideshare company. According to the driver, she turned around and saw that he was half-undressed and performing vulgar acts.
A spokesperson for Lyft emphasized their commitment to driver safety, telling The Telegraph, “Safety is fundamental to Lyft. The behavior described is reprehensible and has no place in the Lyft community or anywhere in society. We permanently banned the individual from the Lyft platform and have reached out to the driver to offer our support.”
Following his attack on the driver, Cartagena fled on foot but was later captured and held in Gwinnett County Jail on $11,400 bond, which he paid.
Lyft’s website says Lyft connects its drivers to ADT security in emergency situations and also remotely monitors rides in real time.
According to Employee Benefit News, two-thirds of rideshare drivers reported being harassed in 2022, and the problem was acutely worse for drivers of color. Of the drivers of color surveyed, 86% reported being called a racial, ethnic, or religious slur.
Joan Moriarty, director of strategic research and campaigns at the Strategic Organizing Center, told the outlet, “These statistics are just from the last 12 months, and it’s not that something has changed in the last year,” Moriarty said.
“It’s that the corporate policies of Uber and Lyft force workers to accept rides they don’t feel are safe and don’t let them stop rides in the middle if they’re being harassed.”
Moriarty also said that the platforms place drivers like the 55-year-old woman in a precarious position because they have to choose between their safety and their position on the platform.
“They literally have to choose between their own livelihoods and safety,” Moriarty told Employee Benefit News.
“Drivers depend on this income to survive and have their families survive. So when forced to make these choices, they’ll choose to put themselves at risk.”
Moriarty said that rideshare companies have to get serious about their drivers’ safety.
“Both Lyft and Uber really actively promote their passenger safety measures,” she said, contrasting passenger well-being with the lack of consideration for the platforms’ drivers.
“Driver safety is not antithetical to passenger safety, and companies are going to really need to take a hard look at their policies.”