23,000 Cars on NYC Streets and No One Is Tracking Uber’s Safety Record

Uber accounts for a majority of “black cars” in NYC, but the company’s safety record is a mystery. Drivers in vehicles assigned to city Uber bases have killed at least two people walking in 2015, including 12-year-old Ervi Secundino. Image: WNBC
Uber accounts for a majority of “black cars” in NYC, but the company’s safety record is a mystery. Image: WNBC

With more than 23,000 affiliated vehicles, Uber accounts for 66 percent of all “black cars” in NYC. Crain’s recently reported that Uber nearly doubled its NYC fleet in the past year. Even as Uber adds several hundred cars a month, no one seems to be keeping track of how many traffic collisions involve Uber drivers, making it impossible to assess the company’s safety record.

Drivers affiliated with New York City Uber bases are known to have been involved in two fatal crashes in 2015. In January an Uber driver killed golf pro Wesley Mensing and injured his girlfriend Erin Sauchelli on the Upper East Side. The driver was reinstated by the TLC and Uber after a brief suspension. In May the driver of a car assigned to an Uber base killed 12-year-old Ervi Secundino in a school zone in Harlem. Witnesses said the driver was “flying” at the time of the collision.

After an Uber driver hit four kids and a mother on a sidewalk in the Bronx, Streetsblog asked around for Uber crash data to see how its safety record stacks up against other for-hire services. I checked with the Taxi and Limousine Commission, NYPD, and Uber. No one had an answer.

New York City has 35,528 active black cars — livery cabs reserved for pre-arranged trips by customers who generally pay with an account — and Uber bases account for 23,349 of them, according to the TLC. (Uber also has a luxury limousine base, with 657 affiliated vehicles.) All Uber drivers must have a TLC for-hire vehicle license, which is easier to obtain than a license to drive a yellow cab.

From July 2014 to June 2015, the latest period for which data is available, black cars were involved in 8,393 crashes, including four fatal collisions and two crashes resulting in critical injury, according to the TLC. Black cars are the only category of for-hire vehicle that saw a significant increase in that 12 month span, rising from 534 last June to 973 this July. While that change likely reflects the growth of Uber, it doesn’t tell us anything about the company’s relative safety.

Compounding the problem, the TLC collects mileage data only for yellow and green cabs. So there’s no way to calculate average crashes per mile for black cars and other types of for-hire vehicles based on data tracked by the city.

In addition to the different licensing requirements for black car drivers, Uber differs from medallion cabs in other ways that may affect how its drivers perform behind the wheel. The process of picking up customers is different, driver compensation is different, and Uber’s driver rating system has no analogy in the medallion industry.

The Uber model could be better or worse for public safety than the traditional one, or it may not be significantly different. With no one tracking the company’s crash data, there’s no way to tell.

We also asked app-hail company Lyft for crash data, and did not get a response. Lyft has just 533 affiliated vehicles in NYC, according to the TLC.

Uber and Lyft are notorious for keeping a tight lid on data about their trips. With app-hailing services poised to keep on growing in NYC, maybe the companies’ transparency about safety shouldn’t be optional.

  • Mathew Smithburger

    Gypsy cab car service entity disguised as a technology company Uber is very successful at (aside from achieving a $50 billion market cap based primarily on illegal street hails and low cost SUV financing only possible at the end of a long credit cycle) is also very skilled at social media disinformation tactics. Pay close attention to “commenters” who will be making pro Uber or vaguely pro Uber comments in response to this post. Check out their facebook pages and try to befriend their hijacked fake profiles. It’s a fun thing to do!

  • HamTech87

    I’ve taken Uber a few times now, and what I notice is that the drivers spend a lot of time looking at their device, instead of the street. This is especially pronounced at the beginning of the trip. Perhaps the software should be modified to prevent this?

  • BBnet3000

    I don’t see why an e-hail is different than calling to arrange a car service, but easier. The gypsy cab complaint really holds no water in NYC where Uber owns car service bases and all the drivers are TLC licensed.

  • Mathew Smithburger

    e-hail is not equal to illegal street hail and Uber is targeting this market in such a way as to make illegal street hails not e-hails inevitable, until the SUV leases payments start being missed and the numbers of Uber cars start to dwindle as a result of market forces and not regulation. Thus when Uber drivers respond to street hails (as many have observed them doing) they create an illegal street hail and become at that instant a gypsy cab company. So remember e-hail is not equal to illegal street hail and when an illegal street hail transaction takes place Uber become at that instant a gypsy cab company.

  • Alex

    Can we talk about this? Secondary market created for Uber taxis (see below and link).
    So let’s say you make the 1076/wk Uber promise if you hack full time. You give them 20%, gas money is on you, $350 rent for car, and you’re taking home maybe $500? Don’t forget that Uber are constantly onboarding drivers so you’ll have to work harder for a relatively constant demand for fares, and btw IRS taxes you on $1076 which is a marginal rate of 25%. Best of luck, and keep your rating at 5*. The company make no money, and want to aggressively expand to get funded at tech bubble rates. The black car and taxi market is not a great industry, and they will likely face a fierce market correction in the next few years.

    STARTS FROM $350 & UP

  • Joe R.

    Wouldn’t you fill out a Schedule C and deduct those expenses first? I never heard of the IRS taxing you on your income before expenses. Not that this changes the picture much. You get taxed on that $500, maybe you see $350 after taxes. If “full-time” means a 40 hour week, then this isn’t a great way to earn a living.

  • Alex

    To be honest I have no clue how cab drivers set themselves up tax-wise. I’m viewing it from a wage POV but it’s possible they would say they are in business for themselves and deduct business related expenses. Not sure how the tax on the self employed business would be calculated in this case, but yes, $350 sounds about right if they go to the bottom bracket. I really hope that the ones who take home $500 1099 dollars realize they’ll likely be paying taxes at the end of the year and not getting a return. It’s a rotten way to earn a living, and I can’t imagine that the workers, who have no worker protections, will stay at this for too long. At least the suckers who didn’t buy a car aren’t stuck with the car payments.

  • Joe R.

    Filing schedule C as an independent contractor is usually how it works when you’re in any kind of business where you get payments with no taxes taken out. You get a 1099 at the end of the year for the total amount paid to you. You deduct your expenses right off the top on Schedule C, then pay taxes on the profit. The tax structure and brackets are exactly the same as if that profit were wages, with one key difference. You pay twice the amount of FICA tax (15.3%). However, you also deduct half this tax on your 1040. When all is said and done maybe you’re paying ~5% more in taxes on that money than you would if it had been earned as an employee. However, you can decrease that by opening a SEP IRA to deduct up to 20% of your profits from your taxable income. You can also open up a traditional IRA. I did both last year. That took $16,500 right off my taxable income. I ended up paying less in taxes on my earnings than I would have earning the same amount as an employee, even paying twice the FICA tax. Of course, the catch is you can’t touch the money in either type of IRA without penalty until you’re 59½. Note that you still pay 15.3% FICA tax on your entire earnings, even if you open a SEP IRA and traditional IRA. You just end up paying less in federal, state, and city income taxes.

    All that said, yes, driving for Uber seems like a rotten, marginal way to earn a living.

  • A H

    NY Post reported on June 16, 2015 that the NYC TLC seized 496 cars affiliated with Uber between April 29 and June 15, 2015. Naive Uber drivers have sub-prime fiananced $50K SUV’s and $25K Camry’s and are making $12/hr after all expenses and taxes to pay off their 5 yr. notes. The only way out is by doing gypsy work. Cuomo thinks Uber has a good business model.

  • Jose mendivil

    But tell me; who cares about safety records; The important thing is that we as drivers we are participating in the disruptive technology, reverse economy and we are helping travis cartel to increase his fortune every nanosecond
    And we are helping travis cartel to depressiate the taxi industry by 80%”with last travis cartel fares”
    And we are helping travis cartel to turn the pseudoriders more and more cheap, frugal, arrogant, rough, cinics, disgusted, classless, shameless, demanding a lot more for a lot less
    Do u can imagine what this poor pseudoriders with attitude going to do without us? They are not willing anymore to ride their stinky asses in the ugly and disgusting taxis; we got to be very considerated with this poor pseudoriders
    So, Travis should be prety proud of the nice job we are performing with our little and irrelevants sacrifices
    Dont get me wrong; im not saying travis or the pseudoriders are evil; human condition is like that; if we see the opportunity to use or abuse of somebody; is really hard to resist such temptation
    Please think about it and dont quit
    And by the time you realize you are not making any money and quit or travis deactivate you( or uou get involved in an accident or you just walk away tired of be the fun, the joke and the piñata of everybody; he is going to have 2 or 3 more mental retarders with some degree of authism willing to replace you So dont worry about who and how you pick the pseudoriders. And have all the fun and make all the jokes of the stinky cabs; keep driving and enjoy the ride as long as you can lmao

  • MadMax

    too fucking many on the road and most cant drive.


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