New California Law Requires Comprehensive Background Checks for Uber, Lyft Drivers

SACRAMENTO -- Come Jan. 1, rideshare passengers will feel an extra layer of protection when using transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill into law Wednesday requiring comprehensive background checks on drivers that encompass their entire criminal history.

It brings a sigh of relief for traumatized Uber passenger Mary Beth McMann.

"It's a huge first step in the right direction to make sure everyone is safe," she said.

FOX40 brought you Mary Beth McMann's story first. A nightmare Uber ride from the Sacramento Airport put the Napa mom in therapy. She now takes comfort in knowing a new law will protect rideshare users from potentially dangerous drivers.

"Today is probably the first day in a long time I feel really, really proud that I am a tax paying citizen and the government is protecting me," said McMann.

Assembly Bill 1289 requires transportation networks companies, or TNCs, like Uber and Lyft to complete comprehensive criminal background checks for their drivers.

Today, screenings go back seven years. As of the first of the year, entire local, state and federal criminal backgrounds will be looked at.

"We just want to ensure passenger safety," said bill author Assemblymember Jim Cooper.

Registered sex offenders and those convicted of violent crimes, assault, domestic violence or DUI can't drive for rideshare companies under the new law.

In a statement Lyft said, "We appreciate the combined efforts of Governor Brown and the legislature to create an environment that allows TNCs like Lyft to grow and thrive in California."

An Uber spokesperson said, "With AB 1289, the legislature and Governor Brown have set forth a clear direction on driver screenings, and we look forward to continuing to innovate in ways that support Californians.”

But not everyone is on board.

"Businesses should obviously be looking out for their passengers rather than the state or cities or the counties getting involved," one Uber passenger told FOX40

Whether you're for or against it, with the stroke of a pen, Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law Wednesday.

Companies face a $5,000 fine if they hire drivers with prohibited offenses.