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Uber safety, one year after Kalamazoo shootings

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Safety concerns remain at the top of the mind in Kalamazoo, a year after Jason Dalton allegedly gunned down six people and injured two others while working as an Uber driver.

Last year, the Newschannel 3 I-Team signed up to drive for Uber to see what it's like.

This year, we caught up with a driver and local lawmakers to see what's changed.

Roberto Rojas has been behind the wheel for Uber for more than a year.

“Just give me something to do on the weekends,” says Rojas who picked up the Newschannel 3 I-Team while driving a Jeep Liberty.

Rojas signed up before the shooting spree in Kalamazoo.

“I was a little reluctant to drive, felt a little safety for myself. I didn't know whether or not someone would hurt me,” says Rojas.

Yet, Rojas drives on. He still gets questions about that tragic night.

“A lot of people ask me about that incident, that shooting and ask me how I feel about it but I feel okay about it because it's pretty safe,” says Rojas.

For the past year, lawmakers like State Representative Brandt ident have been working to calm the fears of Uber drivers and passengers.

“We want our passengers to know, that to the best of our ability, this is going to be a safe ride, the vehicle is going to be safe, the driver is going to be safe,” says State Representative Brandt Iden. The republican lawmaker sponsored new laws aimed at ensuring safety in ride-sharing cars.

This past January, a new set of regulations went into effect. Ride-sharing drivers are now required to be 19 years old and have at least $1 million liability insurance among other requirements.

“Once they’re 19, they have to do a background check and if in seven years, you've had a drunk driving, a felony, you've been convicted of a crime involving a vehicle---you are not able to drive,” says Iden. “Sexual assault is another big one of those. It says you are not qualified to be a driver.”

Rojas agrees with those checks.

“They do ask you for a lot of stuff about your car, make sure your insurance is up to date and they check your driving record and stuff like that,” says Rojas.

Also new this year, umber drivers now having to get their cars inspected.

When the I-Team signed up to drive for Uber last year, we didn't even have to leave our desk to get approved.

That's not the case anymore.

“I think that's a real good thing because I spoke to one lady who said she jumped into an Uber and it smelled, it was very nasty,” says Rojas.

While Jason Dalton would have passed a background check because he didn't have a prior criminal history, lawmakers and drivers say they still have to do their best to ensure a safe ride.

“It’s going to be very difficult for any company to ever be able to identify someone who just has a lapse in reality,” says Iden. “But we do want to make sure at the same time, there are a number of folks out there that might have been driving previously with these criminal backgrounds and we don't want those people coming into contact with our passengers."

In response to our story, Uber sent the I-Team a list of safety features. They include real time ID check to make sure your Uber driver is who they say they are. We're also told that state now requires a vehicle inspection for all cars five years or older. The vehicle inspection program starts in March. Uber’s full statement is below:

"Safety is deeply important to us and we are constantly using technology to improve safety before, during and after every ride.

• Here's a few examples of things we've launched with safety in mind:

o App features to improve road safety: In June 2016, we launched a series of new pilots that we've been rolling out around the world to help predict, prevent and reduce safety risks.

o New Feature to Security for Riders and Drivers: In September 2016, we launched Real-Time ID Check to help verify the right driver is behind the wheel and ensure only the driver has access to his or her account.

o Safety Tips for Riders: We've been working to educate riders about how to make the most of our safety features with safety tips we developed with law enforcement.

o MADD Partnership: We continue partnering with Mothers Against Drunk Driving to raise awareness about the dangers of drunk driving and how people can stay safe."

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