LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — As Las Vegas tourism bounces back to pre-pandemic levels, state officials have said some rideshare drivers are giving illegal rides that could cost passengers much more than a standard fare.
The Nevada Department of Business and Industry briefed state legislators in early March about the ever-increasing offerings and development in and around the Strip leaving an increased demand for transportation without enough resources to address it.
“We need help. We need help to keep people safe,” Nevada Transportation Authority (NTA) Commissioner Dawn Gibson told legislators in March.
In a state with roughly 3,500 taxi drivers and 30,000 rideshare drivers, the topic of this March discussion was that bad actors amongst these workers are provoking safety concerns for passengers they convince to drive.
Todd Park, NTA chief of enforcement, referred to these people as “illegal operators,” or drivers who offer rides for cash only without following regulations set by the state. Many times, these drivers appear to operate for a legitimate business and frequently do.
“A lot of times, the drivers will just pull up and say, ‘hey, does anybody here need a ride?’” Park said outside the department office Monday morning. “Most of the time, they’re working for Uber or Lyft.”
Park said these drivers will convince people to accept their ride off the app, which allows them to pocket whatever money is given to them by the passenger.
Unlike other regulated drivers, these ones do not have relevant insurance to cover medical costs if they’re involved in an accident while driving passengers, Park said. For context, rideshare businesses are required to hold $1.5 million in insurance when transporting a passenger.
“That leaves the person who got hurt, injured, killed, whatever, holding the bag for the medical expenses that they got,” Park said.
To respond, the chief said NTA does weekly sting operations to crack down on at least 40 known drivers operating in this way in Southern Nevada. But, the problem now, Park said, is that these drivers are becoming organized.
“They’ll have pre-shift briefings, they have pictures of my staff, they have pictures of my staff’s vehicles,” Park said. “They’ll call everybody else in their group and tell them, ‘hey, don’t come here, NTA’s out here.’”
He added that, of those they have caught, several offenders have connections to illegal drugs or the illicit sex industry that are offered to passengers.
“We’re just going to continue to grow and this problem is going to continue,” Park said.
The biggest method to avoid falling victim to these drivers, Park said, is to stay on the rideshare app. He urges passengers only to get into cars that were first confirmed through Uber or Lyft virtually.
Additionally, he adds passengers should always look for the proper signage and stickers on the car’s window that ensures the driver was first vetted by either NTA or the rideshare company.
Drivers caught operating illegally in this manner face up to a $10,000 fine and car impoundment, Park said.