What parents need to know when using Uber and Lyft with children

Know the rules, and the law, to keep your kids safe

It’s understandable. You lead a very busy life but you have two kids who need to be taken somewhere after school. You’d love to do it, but you have a very important absolutely-cannot-miss meeting. So, what do you do?

A lot of parents are summoning Uber or Lyft in these situations. They know it may not be a perfect solution, but it’s the solution they need right now. There are plenty of companies popping up to address this specific need, but many parents still use Uber and Lyft anyways.

They may even be aware that it is against Uber and Lyft’s policies for anyone under 18 to ride unaccompanied by an adult. But, what can you do? The kids have got to get from school to practice and there’s no way you can leave the office today!

Indeed, a lot of parents have given tacit approval for their underage teens (and younger) to take Uber and Lyft during those times when no other reasonable alternative is available.

Why letting your children take Uber or Lyft alone isn’t wise

The all too obvious answer is that in this day and age when sexual molestation and abuse is rampant, you really have to ask yourself, how smart it is to let your kids travel with strangers.

You may think they’ve been thoroughly vetted and that their backgrounds have been checked, but there have been just too many stories of drivers who went through the vetting process yet ended up doing horrible things to passengers.

Uber and Lyft both have become notorious for allowing people who had serious crimes in their pasts to become drivers. Their vetting process has proven to be far from ideal. In fact, a lot of states forbid companies from checking workers’ backgrounds any further back than seven years.

Seven years really isn’t a long time. If you knew the stranger driving your child had a serious conviction whose prison term was completed seven and a half years ago, would you let your child ride with them? Probably not.

I don’t mean to alarm you, but that’s certainly something we think about with our own kids. There have been more than enough stories about rideshare drivers doing bad things to good people, that we certainly would not overlook the possibility, especially when it comes to our kids.

Uber and Lyft prohibit unaccompanied minors

Both of the major ride-hail companies prohibit travel with anyone under 18 years of age who is not accompanied by an adult. However, enforcement of this rule obviously has to be left up to the drivers. So, one driver may allow your kids to ride and another may not. Some drivers may not even realize your kids are underage, but another may insist on checking I.D. – something they have a right to do under the rideshare giants’ rules.

Since it is prohibited, there is a chance your kids may not get service because the driver may deny them. More drivers are aware today than in the past that unaccompanied minors are banned from the services and more drivers than ever are telling us that they will refuse any underage passengers if they become aware that they’re underage.

Drivers feel that they have an added and unwanted responsibility to make sure minors are extra safe. And many drivers are afraid they may face increased liability if anything were to happen during the trip. For instance, if they were in an accident and the minor wasn’t using the seatbelt, drivers fear that they could be held responsible for that. For most drivers, the additional burden for an average $4.00 trip just isn’t worth it.

Another potential problem for parents who let their minor children travel alone would be if their kids do anything wrong during the ride that the parents might be held responsible for. And of course, if either Uber or Lyft find out that a parent has let their underage kids use their account to hail rides, the parents could be permanently banned from both services.

Schools’ choice

Schools around the country are increasingly choosing not to allow kids to be picked up or dropped off by a rideshare service. A recent article in USA Today cites a new policy recently put in place by the New Jersey School Boards Association that revises the requirements for students’ supervision when they are picked up at school.

The policy states that parents must provide documentation of who is allowed to pickup their children. The documentation must include “the names and contact information of the individuals authorized to pick up a student. Under such a policy or procedure, authorizing a ride-sharing service for students would not be consistent with the board policy.”


Car seats are required

If you have a child who is of car-seat riding age, you are no doubt not going to be tempted to let them take an Uber alone. But, even riding with them, you will have to provide the car seat in most cases. Uber and Lyft do offer child car seats in some cities, but if you’re in a city where they don’t offer that service, you’ll have to bring yours along.

One thing to keep in mind though, if you are in a city where car seats are offered, drivers will only have one car seat available. If you have more than one child, you’ll either have to take two separate cars (if you have two accompanying adults) or bring the additional needed car seat(s).

You have to follow state law when it comes to car seats. If they’re required for your children, you’ll have to have provide them even when you take Uber and Lyft.

Don’t let children hurt your passenger rating

Don’t forget that while you get to rate your drivers, your drivers also get to rate you. In fact, drivers are required to rate every passenger. Neither Uber nor Lyft will send a driver their next call until they have rated their last passenger.

With that in mind, kids are one of the factors that lead to low ratings for passengers. If your children are well-behaved, you shouldn’t have any problem. But any parent knows it’s not always easy to keep a child’s behavior in check. When you travel with children there is a higher than normal chance that something will happen during the trip that might cause your driver to give you something less than 5-star rating.

Before putting your kids in the car, if they’re old enough for this kind of talk, it’s a good idea to tell them what is about to happen and let them know what kind of behavior you expect from them.

Things drivers hate that will definitely get you a 1-star rating, are:

  • Kids who throw up – automatic 1 star, unless you apologize profusely and offer them some money to pay for the clean-up. But be careful if you offer them money. Be sure to offer them enough to actually cover any clean-up costs. If you offer too little, you risk offending them and not only getting a 1-star rating but getting a complaint to Uber about you from them.
  • Kids who throw, spill or drop food in the car. This is also an instant and automatic 1-star rating. The best way to minimize a low rating in this case, beyond avoiding food in the car, is to bring some cleaning supplies along and clean up any mess before you get out of the car (and apologize profusely as well).
  • Kids who talk loudly or scream. Screaming kids especially will generally get you a 1- or 2-star rating, so that’s something you might want to warn them against doing before you get in the car. The only way to minimize a bad rating from this scenario is to get them to quiet down.


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