Ticketing of Uber, Lyft drivers to resume

- Starting next week, the driver on your ride home through Uber or Lyft could get pulled over and ticketed by a police officer.

Hillsborough County voted for a second time to ticket drivers with the ride sharing apps, since the state legislature has not passed statewide regulations on the service.

"There were high hopes on our part, as well as everyone else, that they would reach a consensus and pass some statewide policy, so that we wouldn't have to deal with it here at home anymore," said Commissioner Victor Christ of the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission.

The state legislature will end its session on Friday, and it does not appear that lawmakers will make a decision on regulating ride sharing services before that date. Commissioners said without regulations, both Uber and Lyft services are currently illegal in Tampa Bay.

"If someone is driving for a ride sharing company and they don't have a PVDL, which is a license to be a taxi or limousine driver, then they're breaking the law," explained Christ.

Commissioners stopped ticketing drivers once state lawmakers began discussing the service, but drivers could be fined up to $900 starting Monday once ticketing resumes, according to commissioners. Drivers stopped multiple times by authorities could face misdemeanor criminal charges.

"You're going to see a lot of people driving drunk on the street, and that's going to be more dangerous for Tampa," said Ernesto Morffi, who has been driving for Uber for nine months.

Morffi uses his car to make extra money once he gets off work from his day job, but he said happy hour and weekend nights are when Uber and Lyft drivers are most in demand.

"On the weekends people go to drink. People don't want to drive, because they don't want to get a DUI. They don't want to call a cab, because a cab is going to be three times as expensive," said Morffi.

Hillsborough County Transportation Commissioners said they are not against the ride sharing services and they understand the popularity of the apps, but they do not feel that the background checks or insurance requirements are safe enough.

"No one has been able to show us that they do anything more than a basic Google search [background check]," said Christ.

Hillsborough County would like drivers to submit for a "Level 2" background check, requiring finger prints to confirm identity, an international criminal records check and the county would also be alerted if drivers are charged with an infraction at any time. It's the same background check taxi drivers must pass.

"We want the public to have the services that they're demanding, but we want it done in a way where it's fair and it's safe," said Christ.

The County plans to continue its lawsuit against Uber for operating illegally, however, commissioners decided to drop the lawsuit against Lyft. They said Lyft representatives have been open to working with the county to meet its requirements.

Commissioners are hopeful Lyft will be able to operate as a legal service for riders in the near future.

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