Coast Uber driver shot in head calls for change in rideshare policy

Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 9:19 PM CST
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - When an Uber driver was shot two weeks ago, her first thoughts were of survival. Now, as Linda Buford recovers, she wants to fight for other drivers. She wants that terrifying night to change the rideshare industry.

“It went ‘boom, boom, boom,’” Buford said. “It cracked two places on the windshield. I can’t drive with that. I can’t get in my car every day and look at that.”

Buford’s hanging up her keys. Her rideshare driving days are over after she was shot in the head by a passenger in late January. A teenager, Trinyell Coats Jr, has been charged with pulling the trigger.

“I won’t go back,” Buford said. “I won’t, but I would like to help make it safer for other drivers.”

Linda doesn’t want other drivers to become a statistic.

A study by Gig Workers Rising found nearly 400 drivers were victims of carjacking crimes. More than 50 of them have been killed since 2017. Just last month, an Uber driver in New Orleans was stabbed to death by a passenger.

“His confession basically stated that he woke up yesterday morning and decided he was going to kill someone,” Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto said. “We asked him specifically ‘how did you pick her?’ His response was, ‘I didn’t pick her, Uber picked her.’ She was the random person that picked him up that day.”

In Jackson, dash cam video captured a passenger fire a gun at a Lyft driver in 2022. A few months earlier, another Lyft driver was shot seven times by a passenger in Jackson.

RELATED: Biloxi Uber driver shot in the head says she was “protected and blessed”

For Linda, passengers aren’t the only concern. She says the companies don’t do enough to protect their drivers.

“Lyft, Uber, DoorDash, Waitr, all of them - let’s have some PSAs,” Buford said. “We protect our drivers. Our drivers are equipped with GPS. You can’t steal the car. They are going to get you in five minutes. Let these people know. Let these people know the protections we have in place because we do.”

Police say Linda’s rider booked the Uber through his older brother’s account. At 17, he was too young to have his own Uber account, but drivers have no way of verifying who’s getting in the car.

“Seven days later, I turned in a report that my rider used a fraudulent name,” Buford said. “They had not even contacted me.”

Linda says she picked up the rider from an area she doesn’t normally go because Uber enticed her to book more rides to earn a $350 bonus, an incentive she would like Uber to end.

“Stop waving it in front of your nose and putting you in danger,” Buford said. “That’s wrong. I never would have been there if they wouldn’t have done that and this never would have happened to me. I made the decision. I get it. She called about two or three times - I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.”

RELATED: ‘If he would have went bang, bang, I wouldn’t be here today’: Uber driver shot in head shares story for first time

An Uber spokesperson released this statement on the incident:

“What Ms. Buford has been through is gut-wrenching, and our thoughts are with her as she recovers from this senseless attack. We have been in touch with her and are working to offer support during this difficult time. We are grateful to law enforcement for their efforts to bring those responsible to justice.”

The company says they’ve recently pioneered a number of safety features on the app like an emergency button for drivers.

We also asked about their injury protection insurance which drivers can purchase. Linda wasn’t covered by it because she says she was never offered it. Uber tells us it covers medical expenses, disability payments and survivor benefits.

A link to Linda’s GoFundMe can be found here.

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