A video that shows a ride-sharing passenger ripping off her mask, coughing on a driver, attempting to steal his phone and breaking the driver’s mask has prompted a police investigation and bans from both Uber and Lyft.
San Francisco police say the incident occurred Sunday and a 32-year-old driver for Uber was the victim. The conflict began as one of three passengers refused to wear a mask, prompting the driver to end the ride, police say.
“An altercation occurred and a second passenger reached over the driver’s seat (from the rear seat area) and stole the driver’s cellphone from his hands,” police said.
“The suspects exited the car and the third passenger reached into an open window and sprayed what is believed to be pepper spray into the vehicle and towards the driver. The suspects fled the scene.”
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In May 2020, Uber introduced a “No Mask, No Ride” policy, which requires that drivers and riders wear a mask when giving or taking rides.
After ABC7 News, San Francisco reporter Dion Lim tweeted a video of the incident, both Uber and Lyft said they have banned the rider. The video depicts multiple riders yelling profanities at the driver as well as two maskless passengers coughing in the driver’s direction.
Lim and the Washington Post have identified the driver as Subhakar Khadka, an Uber driver. A GoFundMe that says it is raising money for Khadka has received more than $30,000 in donations.
“Driving in a pandemic is not easy. Please wear a mask, respect one another, and be a good person,” Lyft said in a tweeted statement.
In July, Uber extended the mask requirement indefinitely and in September started requiring some riders to “take a selfie as proof you are wearing a mask before your next Uber ride.”
“We firmly believe that accountability is a two-way street. That’s why we’re expanding the same technology to riders, too,” the company said in a blog post in September. “If a driver reports to us that a rider wasn’t wearing a mask, the rider will be required to take a selfie with their face covered before they’re able to take another trip with Uber.”
According to Uber, the verification selfie uses object detection technology to determine whether a person is wearing a mask showing their mouth and nose are covered.
In a statement to USA TODAY, an Uber spokesperson called the behavior in the video “appalling” and confirmed the “rider no longer has access to Uber.”
The company has a “zero tolerance” policy for physical violence and inappropriate comments, which are outlined in its community guidelines. Drivers can cancel trips if a rider isn’t wearing a mask and are also able to cancel trips if they don’t feel safe, according to Uber’s Driver Safety Tips.
Anti-mask protests and videos of altercations over face mask requirements have continued to go viral at businesses across the country.