SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - One of the fastest growing companies in the world right now is Uber. It seems everyone uses the ride-sharing giant to get around, especially after a night on the town.
Had too much to drink? Call Uber and get home safe. But, what if the Uber driver is drunker than you.
Three buddies enjoyed a nice dinner in Montecito over the Labor Day weekend. They had a few drinks and instead of getting behind the wheel, they played it safe and called Uber.
"We got into the vehicle. The vehicle wasn't clean by any means and the windshield was broken," said Tyler Mearce.
He said it looked as if someone's head slammed into it. That was the first red flag.
"We were coming from Montecito and going to the Mesa. I said, 'We're going to the Mesa' and he said, 'How do I get there?'" said Mearce.
That was the second red flag. The ride got worse as they approached the roundabout on Coast Village Road.
"Our driver went through the roundabout his own direction and when we informed him that he hadn't made the right choice, he made an illegal u-turn with oncoming traffic coming at us," said Mearce.
Then they got on the 101 Freeway and the driver was weaving from lane to lane.
"I see him reach down into the center console. He had a Big Gulp soda container. He reached down, grabbed it, put it up to his face, and I thought he had dip or something to drink in there. He proceeded to vomit into the cup," said Mearce.
Mearce said within seconds, everyone smelled alcohol.
"He threw it out the window and proceeded to vomit again, at which point all three of us in the car told him that we needed to get out of the vehicle immediately," said Mearce.
The driver pulled over at the Laguna exit off the 101 Freeway, apologized and claimed he got sick on fast food. At this point, Mearce and his two friends are standing on the side of the road.
"We were all just so taken back by it, that we couldn't believe it was happening," said Mearce.
"Then he went up to Gutierrez, put on his right blinker and almost went down the wrong way on Gutierrez," said Steve Epstein who was also a passenger in the car.
Immediately, they called 911 and explained what happened. By midnight, Mearce and Epstein had sent complaints to Uber and tweeted about it.
"Hashtag drunk Uber driver, hashtag Uber failure. By 7:30, I had an email from corporate Uber saying, 'We take this very seriously' and Ii thought that's cool, they do," said Epstein.
But then a woman responded to one of their tweets claiming the same thing happened to her in June, two and a half months before. She also said she had the same driver!!
We only know his first name is Joshua and he drives a Ford Fusion.
Michelle, the woman who drove with Joshua on June 25th declined to talk with us. But we do know she filed a complaint with Uber. We also discovered Uber did nothing about it and it appears Joshua continued to pick people up and drive them around town.
NewsChannel Three asked Uber several times for Joshua's last name, but they refuse to give it to us. Uber even declined to contact him for us. Obviously we would like to get his side of the story, but we have no way to reach him at this point. So, we believe the fairest thing to do is not show his face.
"I've literally never talked to anybody from uber, " said Mearce.
NewsChannel Three also discovered no one in the car that night has spoken to a person at Uber. It makes you wonder how well does Uber investigate its drivers? That's another reason why we want Joshua's full name, so we can check out his driving record.
Uber admits it made a mistake and should have removed Joshua after Michelle's complaint on June 25. A spokesperson also sent us this statement, "This driver's Uber account was permanently disabled after receiving negative feedback on September 6. We have a zero tolerance policy for alcohol or drug use on the Uber platform."
As for Tyler Mearce, he used to be an Uber driver. Turns out, his experience as a driver was safer than his time as a passenger.
"I went through the whole process. They try to make it difficult, but there's still some chinks in the chain here, clearly," said Mearce.
Even Uber admits it is always monitoring and improving its feedback process. Uber said it checked out Joshua's driving record with a third party accredited company just like every other driver.
If you have a problem and need help, call our Tipline at 882-3903.