AUSTIN, Texas - New data shows that Austin's fingerprint requirements for ride-hailing companies may have been working to help reduce driver-related incidents before the ordinance was overturned by state lawmakers.
Austin Police Department data shows that when compared to the previous year, the rate of incidents involving ride-hailing drivers dropped by about half between May 9, 2016 and May 29, 2017, which was the time when Lyft and Uber didn't operate in Austin.
During that time there were a total of 12 reported incidents, which averaged out to be about one incident every 32.08 days. Compared to one year prior to May 9th, 2016, when there was an average of one incident every 15.87 days, and the rest of the year after May 29th, 2017, where there was an average of about one incident every 16.62 days.
While the data shows the Austin fingerprinting ordinance may have been driving down these incidents, the picture is far from complete.
"By in large I still think it was a volume play," said Joe Deshotel, a partner at the transportation consulting firm Mobilitaas.
Deshotel worked for both the nonprofit ride-hailing app Ride Austin, and for Fasten, another ride-hailing app. He said he believes the drop in incidents is related to a decrease in rides in Austin compared to when Lyft and Uber were around.
"Clearly we don't have all the data, but I think the data that we do have would suggest that there were twice the number of rides," Deshotel said.
Lyft and Uber don't publically share their ride data, and declined to comment for this story.
Ride Austin disputes the notion that rides went down while Lyft and Uber were away. Instead, it credits the drop in incidents to their safety policies.
"Obviously there are bad apples that have passed all the fingerprinting and whatnot," said Ride Austin Vice President of Operations Bobbi Kommineni. "But overall, you know, we have been pretty successful."
Meanwhile, the CEO of Fasten Kirill Evdakov said in a statement, "This decrease in police-related incidents is a result of our collaboration with the city of Austin – and is not at all surprising."
But regardless of the effectiveness of fingerprinting, the regulation made for an easy target.
"In Texas we don't believe in heavy-handed, top-down, one-size-fit-all, regulatory environments," Governor Greg Abbott said as he signed HB 100 into law.
The legislation provided a statewide framework for ride-hailing. While fingerprint background checks are not mandatory, the new law does require that operators conduct local, state and national criminal background checks on drivers.