Uber driver allegedly rapes drunk teenage girl as sexual assault allegations involving drivers stack up

On Friday evening, an Orange County-based Uber driver was charged with raping an intoxicated 17-year-old girl after she passed out in the back of his car, according to the county district attorney’s office. Samer Alaaeldin Mahran, 23, is being charged with several felony counts, including rape by use of drugs, sexual penetration of a child by force, and unlawful sexual intercourse, The Washington Post reports. Mahran could face 28 years in prison and is scheduled to appear in court Dec. 2. Family members called an Uber for the teen and became concerned when she did not arrive home on time; a relative of the girl witnessed the alleged assault and called Laguna Beach police.

Despite Uber’s use of a screening process performed by Checkr, which Uber claims is “nationally accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners,” it’s run into problems with assault before. And women aren’t the only victims: there has been racial and anti-gay violence from Uber drivers in recent years too. But clearly, there exists a serious issue for female passengers in particular.

Earlier this year, a Georgia-based Uber driver was charged for allegedly raping a passenger after taking her home. In March, another Orange County-based driver was charged for allegedly assaulting a woman he picked up from a bar. In August, an Uber driver in Florida was accused of raping three women. In September, a Minnesota-based Uber driver was charged for allegedly attempting to kidnap and rape a teenage girl. Just earlier this month, Uber settled lawsuits with two women, one from Boston and another from Charleston, who claimed to be “viciously” assaulted in 2015.

Last year, the company issued a statement responding to sexual assault charges against its drivers detailing its vetting process for drivers, which begins with collecting the prospective driver’s “full name, date of birth, social security number, driver’s license number, a copy of their driver’s license, vehicle registration, insurance, and proof of a completed vehicle inspection.” Additionally, through the Checkr system, Uber “then looks into his or her background. They run a social security trace … and then searches for his or her name and addresses in a series of national, state and local databases for convictions in the last seven years.”

An Uber spokeswoman has responded to charges against Mahran, telling CNet in an email that the company is “devastated by what this family has gone through and our hearts are with them.” She added, “We’ll continue working with police to support the investigation and proceedings. The individual has been permanently barred from the app.” 

It’s obviously far easier to identify systemic, overarching problems than it is to offer solutions. Let’s be real: Uber is a life-saving app, and in many cases, access to taxi services is critical for drunk people who really shouldn’t be driving. But the devastating reality that comes with being a woman — whether it’s braving sexual harassment on the street and public transportation or running the risk of being assaulted just to get a ride home — is that you’re rarely ever truly safe.

However, Uber needs to address the issue within its business and be more thorough in its hiring process. We can’t just hope drivers stop raping women.