A car accident on Nov. 1 in Sacramento involving a Lyft ridesharing vehicle was responsible for one fatality. Others involved in the accident suffered minor injuries.
Five vehicles total were involved in the Nov. 1 accident that killed Shane Holland, 24, of West Sacramento. California Highway Patrol’s (CHP) division in North Sacramento issued a press release the following day on the CHP North Sacramento Facebook page, detailing the developments of the accident.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones involved in this tragedy. We are deeply saddened to hear this news and will continue to support those involved as well as authorities in the ongoing investigation,” said Lyft communications manager Paige Thelen in an emailed statement.
According to a CHP press release, the first collision occurred around 1:25 a.m. westbound on I-80, west of Riverside Avenue in the third lane during heavy rainfall when an unknown white sedan rear-ended a Kia. The white vehicle drove off and has not been located, but the Kia spun out in the wet conditions and stalled in the middle lanes of the highway.
Lyft driver Shanti Adhikari, 31, of Sacramento, was driving Holland and another passenger home from their Halloween celebrations. To avoid the Kia in the middle lanes, Adhikari swerved, causing his 2014 Toyota Camry to spin off on the right shoulder of the road. The car hit one tree, then spun into another and hit the second tree with its left rear passenger door before coming to a stop.
Two more collisions occurred with the Kia after the Lyft car hit it until a passerby trucker helped push the Kia off the road. North Sacramento CHP Officer Chad Hertzell explained that this complicated accident, with many different vehicles involved, will take several weeks to determine who, if anyone, is at fault.
Hertzell said that in his 18 years with the CHP he has seen a lot of taxi accidents, but had never heard of Lyft or ridesharing companies until this incident. He believes it is too early in the development of these companies to determine if they are more dangerous than taxis and that in general, the benefit of this new type of transportation may be in reducing drunk driving.
“Anytime you get into a car with somebody else, there’s always a risk involved, but it’s a calculated risk. Is it safer to get into a car with somebody else who’s sober or to get into a car under the influence and drive yourself home? Choosing the sober driver is always the better option,” Hertzell said.
Lyft and the other well-known ridesharing company, Uber, both have $1 million insurance policies. This covers passengers in incidents involving Lyft or Uber vehicles. Both companies also offer the same amount of coverage in cases where an uninsured or underinsured motorist causes damage to a Lyft or Uber vehicle, including hit-and-run cases.
The Sacramento accident raises questions about the safety of services like Lyft and Uber that allow users to book and pay for a car ride through an app on their smartphones. Both companies are based in San Francisco and have recently expanded to Sacramento and Davis — these are three of the nearly 70 cities Lyft now operates in, according to Lyft communications employee Mary Caroline Pruitt.
“To become a Lyft driver, you must be at least 21, have a 4-door car that’s model year 2000 or newer, and must possess a clean driving record and background check,” Pruitt said.
Customers have said they feel safer in Lyft cars than taxis due to the Lyft hiring policies.
“In that aspect, it is as safe, if not more, than a cab, because when I get into a cab, I don’t know what their history is, but when I get into a Lyft car I know they’ve had a background check,” said Jamie Wasson, a fourth-year microbiology major, who is a local ambassador for Lyft.
Lyft and Uber work very similarly. Both use apps to connect ride-seekers with drivers in their area. The popularity of Lyft and Uber is due in part to their convenience. As smartphone ubiquity increases, it is very easy for passengers to connect with drivers and find cheap rides quickly, without having to make a phone call or get out their wallet.
“I think they are definitely less expensive than a taxi. I think the convenience is huge since it’s all through our phones… it [is] really nice that I can just put my debit card in my phone and know that, as long as my phone’s charged, I’ll find a ride home,” Wasson said.
Beaudin also expressed that she appreciates Lyft and Uber services for their low prices and convenience, adding that drivers are required to tell passengers the cost of the ride before entering the vehicle.
Lyft promotes itself through coupons for free rides. As a Lyft ambassador, Wasson gives out these coupons to restaurants and companies in the area. Once people try the service, Lyft hopes they will remain loyal for the low prices, driver quality and convenience.
“Lyft is very active on giving coupons, I’ve already got three free coupons for Lyft rides…they go to very public places, so when everyone was leaving the festival at Treasure Island they handed them out. At Hardly Strictly they handed them out too,” Beaudin said.
While officials say that the Nov. 1 accident is uncommon, services like Lyft and Uber still could be a convenient and safe option to reduce incidences of driving under the influence.
“If your option is to take a cab or Lyft versus driving home under the influence, your better option is to get home safely. Lyft is a good alternative to drunk driving,” Hertzell said.