Uber driver assaulted by Taco Bell exec: For-hire car service risks go both ways

This incident may seem unusual because of the attacks by, not on, Uber drivers that have made news of late. However, attacks on for-hire drivers are not uncommon.

Screengrab from YouTube
This YouTube screenshot shows Edward Caban, an Uber driver, ordering a man police have identified as Benjamin Golden out of the car because he is too drunk to offer directions. Taxi-type drivers face relatively high risks of danger from riders.

An Uber driver in California resorted to pepper spray to stop an assault by a drunk rider Friday. The driver, Edward Caban, says he became frustrated after the rider could not give him directions, the Orange County Register reported.

“Get out of my car or I will call the police,” Mr. Caban said, according to an expletive-riddled video of the incident

When Caban told the rider to leave the car, the customer grabbed his hair and punched his face, spewing expletives.

Police arrested Benjamin Golden of Newport Beach, Calif., on charges of misdemeanor public intoxication and misdemeanor assault in relation to the incident, according to The Orange County Register.

This incident may seem unusual because of the attacks by, not on, Uber drivers that have made news of late. The government of India briefly banned Uber after a driver raped a female passenger in New Delhi, and a court has since sentenced the driver to life in prison. However, attacks on for-hire drivers are not uncommon.

The homicide rate against taxi drivers was 9 in 100,000 between 1998 and 2007, compared to a rate of 0.5 per 100,000 for all workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This means taxi drivers are murdered on the job at least 21 times more frequently than other workers.

The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration makes several taxi-specific recommendations for safety, including physical barriers between driver and rider, security cameras, alarm systems. 

Uber is technically exempt from OSHA coverage, but the company’s website describes its unique safety precautions. The app-based fare system is one of the most important, as drivers who don’t carry cash reduce any incentive to rob them.

The rating system for drivers and riders alike is designed to encourage people to treat fellow Uber participants with respect, but Mr. Golden’s intoxicated state evidently caused him to forget that a coming drop in his Uber rating could affect his ability to secure a ride in the future. 

While Uber drivers do not have the partition used to separate taxi drivers and riders, Caban did make use of another OSHA-recommended precaution – a security camera on his dashboard caught the whole incident on video and uploaded it to YouTube. 

The video, as well as user information provided to the Uber app, helped lead to Golden's arrest and assault charge. He spent some time in jail with a bail of $500 and was released once he was no longer intoxicated, the Orange County Register reported.

Golden was quickly identified as a mid-level brand manager for Taco Bell. He has since been fired.

“Given the behavior of the individual, it is clear he can no longer work for us,” a Taco Bell spokeswoman told the Register. “We have also offered and encouraged him to seek professional help.”

This report contains material from The Associated Press.

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