Jessica Ciencin Henriquez, writing for the Observer, describes a harrowing ride with a drunk Uber driver last week. Henriquez was at a party on the Upper West Side where she noticed a man getting very drunk. He left before her, and when the host called her an Uber about an hour later, she was shocked to find that man behind the wheel.

I ducked into the backseat of the black sedan and confirmed my address. Catching his familiar fiery hair in the rear-view mirror, I leaned forward.

“Um, hi?” I could still smell the joint he’d paused to smoke while I chose to pass.

“Oh hey,” he said casually as if I hadn’t watched him fill his wine glass three times for every time I filled mine.

Now, in a terrifying twist, he was my designated driver.

“I know, it’s weird right? But it’s good money,” he answered as he pulled away from the curve.

Henriquez got out of the car and emailed Uber’s customer service department the next morning. Before they responded, however, she had taken to Twitter and found dozens of other people who had tweeted about being picked up by drunk drivers. She writes:

I reached out to these users to see if we had experienced any similarities. Each of their stories echoed details: the driver was erratic, swerving and reeked of alcohol. Not one of them reported their drivers to the police. Only three filed complaints to Uber. The company’s response was to offer a refund and a $25 credit toward future rides. In all three cases reported, the passengers were assured that an investigation would be opened to confirm any accusations and the employee would be reprimanded accordingly. Not one person followed up.

Henriquez notes that the popularity of Uber does mean that there are fewer drunk drivers on the streets, which is undeniably a good thing. Uber has a zero-tolerance policy for drivers working under the influence. But Uber also has a history of failing to properly screen drivers and drivers doing various criminal things, as well as a documented contempt for regulation.

If you’re in an Uber and you suspect your driver is intoxicated, end the ride immediately and contact law enforcement with the driver’s vehicle information and license plate number.

(Photo: Dianne Yee)