(Update) Uber-drivers in Amsterdam kill 4 road-users in six weeks; Road safety organization demands Uber ban

(Update) Uber-drivers in Amsterdam kill 4 road-users in six weeks; Road safety organization demands Uber ban

“Uber must be banned.” advocates the VVN, the Dutch road safety organization after a series of fatal accidents caused by Uber drivers in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. “They are kamikaze pilots,” says Rob Stomphorst, the organization’s speaker. In an initial reaction, Uber has raised the minimum age of new drivers from 18 to 21. These drivers now need to have at least a year’s driving experience and all drivers under 25 will need to undergo road safety training.

In less than two months time, Uber-drivers have killed 4 people in three separate incidents. A pedestrian and a cyclist – both in their 20’s – were killed in December and at the beginning of January. Only recently an accident which happened on January 3 was also attributed to an Uber-driver. He drove into a father and daughter who had left their broken-down car at the side of the A9 motorway. Drug-use played a part in the accident, according to Amsterdam police. In 2017 an Uber-driver killed a 24-year old student, but the Dutch courts cleared him of any responsibility. “Uber does not learn and does not care”, the girl’s parents commented bitterly in local media.

“Four deaths in six weeks and another accident in Amsterdam recently, in which a nine-year-old girl was badly injured and the Uber-driver just drove off, that’s just too much. That driver had also caused another accident with a cyclist just minutes before, and had not stopped for that one either. The question is how many deadly victims it takes before resolute action is taken. We can’t let Uber go on like this.” Stomphorst told Amsterdam newspaper Het Parool. A few hours after the accident, the Uber driver reported to the police.

According to the road traffic organization, the same rules should apply for all taxis. Today, in deregulated Amsterdam, Uber and other ‘app-drivers’ face lower requirements than regular drivers who are connected to a taxi company. Last week over 500 Amsterdam taxi drivers mourned the victims and protested the current problems with Uber by driving around with a black mourning ribbon attached to their vehicles. “We are waiting for the next deadly victim”, one taxi driver told newspaper AD.

Amsterdam’s Alderman Sharon Dijksma (traffic and transport) – a former national transport minister – is “very concerned” about Uber drivers’ road safety. “In recent times there were too many accidents which involved taxis,” Dijksma told Het Parool. “I think Uber must take responsibility and ensure that their drivers comply with all applicable laws and regulations.”

Since the latest fatal accident, a week ago, Dijksma has spoken to Uber’s European director. She also talked to other Amsterdam taxi companies, despite the fact that their accident rate traditionally is much lower than Uber’s.

Recently the Dutch Transport Ministry had already been discussing Uber’s worrying road safety record in Amsterdam (850.000 inhabitants). The ministry is also talking to Alderman Dijksma about Amsterdam’s unruly and mushrooming taxi market, now served by about 5.000 taxicabs, Uber’s and others.

Thijs Emondts, General Manager of Uber in Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg, told local media AD and Het Parool that Uber was very sorry about the fatal accidents and is concerned about the high number of fatal accidents which happened in such a short time. “Safety is our greatest priority, which is why we are investigating whether we can do even more to increase road safety. Our thoughts go out to the victim’s relatives.”

Uber’s initial measures (minimum age to 21, minimum one year’s driving experience plus road safety training for all under 25’s) didn’t impress. The authoritative local newspaper Het Parool called it “a quick fix to relieve the mounting public pressure on Uber.” According to this paper it doesn’t touch the core of the problem: too many (young) drivers chasing too many (cheap) fares for too many hours – often distracted or at high speeds.

In an interview with business paper FD on Tuesday January 22nd, Hedy Borreman, CEO of Amsterdam’s oldest and largest taxi company Taxi Centrale Amsterdam (TCA, 1.400 taxis) said: “If TCA-drivers had caused four fatal accidents, I wouldn’t be sitting here as CEO anymore.” In the same article she suggests stricter taxi regulation in Amsterdam – particularly in numbers – and a ban on ‘app-hopping’: joining another app after the hours on the first chosen app (like Uber) have maxed out. Amsterdam taxi drivers are not supposed to drive more than 56 hours a week.

According to Amsterdam city council member Dennis Boutkan, decisive action is now needed. “I assume that the taxi inspection team is now taking another hard look at Uber,” he told Het Parool, AT5 and other local media. “Uber’s way of working is dangerous and unhealthy, the drivers do not earn enough, and through the app Uber pushes the drivers in a way which threatens road safety.”

A ‘taskforce’ with representatives from national and local government, local transport regulators, the national taxi enforcement agency, Uber and Amsterdam taxi companies is now looking for solutions to the road safety and regulation issues in the Dutch capital.

  • Uber-drivers kill 4 in Amsterdam in two months; Uber now raises the age of new drivers to 21 with a minimum driving experience of a year and road safety courses for everyone under 25.

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