Some trepidation is natural when getting into a car driven by a stranger. But few people expect to be kidnapped and embroiled in a high-speed pursuit across state lines by an improperly licensed driver.Unfortunately, that’s just what happened to New York businessman Ryan Simonetti and two co-workers on a recent trip to Washington, D.C. when they attempted to catch a ride from Uber, a controversial and largely unregulated ridesharing service competing with established taxi companies nationwide.As Simonetti tells it, he and his coworkers called Uber for a ride to their new office after a long day of meetings. As they approached the car, they saw the driver talking to a D.C. taxi inspector, who walked away after the driver handed over his license and registration.As soon as they got in the car, however, the driver began to speed away, with the taxi inspector in hot pursuit.From the Washington Post: “That cop’s following you. What’s going on?” Simonetti said he asked the driver. He said the driver told him not to worry. “Oh no, he’s not a real cop,” the Uber driver replied. Simonetti said the driver then told them: “I’m sorry, we’re going to have to run this red light.”The driver didn’t have the proper license required to pick up passengers in the District of Columbia, reports the Post; he was fleeing the inspector in a mad attempt to avoid the $2,000 fine. Simonetti and his companions begged the driver to slow down so they could jump out of the vehicle, but the driver refused. The chase continued onto the highway, crossing state lines into Virginia.After Simonetti resorted to threats of violence to escape the situation, the driver eventually stopped and allowed his captive passengers to exit the vehicle before speeding off in the opposite direction.A spokesperson for Uber told the Post the driver is no longer with the company. So far, no criminal charges have been filed. This isn't the first time, however, that the safety of the Uber system has been called into question. In a much more tragic incident last year, an UberX driver with a reckless driving record hit and killed a 6-year-old in San Francisco, leading the corporation to announce an expansion in their background-check process.
Ethan Corey is a writer and researcher based in New York. His work has appeared in The Nation, Rolling Stone and MEL magazine.