A new California law may make your Uber ride home safer and more sober. But not completely.
Beginning this week, the state requires ride-share and taxi drivers to have blood alcohol levels of .04 or less when transporting passengers. Previous law allowed them to ferry passengers with up to .08 blood alcohol in their systems, the same level as most drivers.
The law brings the ride-sharing industry, led by Uber and Lyft, in line with laws that affect drivers of commercial passenger shuttles.
Consuming one alcoholic beverage could cause a person's blood alcohol level to rise to .04, depending on factors such as age, gender and weight. That amount can impair a person's driving ability.
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Ride-share companies promote their service as a safe ride home for people who have been out drinking, but have been accused of being lax about driver impairment.
Over a one-year period in 2014 and 2015, Uber received 2,000 rider complaints about drivers who were possibly under the influence, and deactivated driver accounts in 574 of those cases, according to a state Public Utilities Commission report.
But the PUC concluded that Uber often did not act quickly when a passenger contacted them to report a driver suspected to be under the influence.
Of 154 cases the PUC delved into, Uber "provided evidence for just 22 instances when it suspended the driver within one hour of when a passenger filed a complaint."
An Uber representative said the company has improved its internal process since then and has a published "zero tolerance policy for impaired driving and a longstanding commitment to help reduce it in California and across the country."
The company says on its website it will deactivate the account of any driver found to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol while working.
Assembly Bill 2687, authored by former Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, R-San Luis Obispo, was passed unanimously in 2016 by the state Legislature with a delayed implementation date.
The state Department of Motor Vehicles issued a statement last week saying it will take action against ride-share drivers convicted of drinking and driving.
"The DMV wants to ensure the public understands drivers of passengers for hire will be held to a higher standard of safety while transporting people," officials said in a press statement. "The DMV will suspend a person’s driver license if a conviction is added to their record. Commercial driver license holders will receive a disqualification.".