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Uber drivers: Picking up loose ends of Florida’s new law

Starting next month, Florida will have a uniform set of rules for Uber and other ride-hailing services.

The new law establishing statewide regulations for what are formally called “transportation network companies” was passed to supersede the varying and sometimes conflicting regulations enacted by counties and cities.

For example, did you know that Uber drivers in Miami can get fined for not speaking English?

I would have thought it was more likely for Uber drivers in Miami to be fined for not speaking Spanish. But Spanish-speaking Uber driver Carmen Hechevarría was fined $250 on Sunday at Miami International Airport for not being able to speak in English to a police officer there.

An Uber spokesman explained that drivers merely had to communicate in English, which they do through the ride-sharing app, and were not required to speak in English, The Miami Herald reported.

(Suggested name for Spanish language Uber: Uberia)


Anyway, the Miami-Dade ordinance that required English-speaking proficiency will be replaced by the statewide law, which doesn’t address language requirements.

So Uber drivers in Florida can speak Spanish with impunity starting on July 1.

I’m guessing Hechevarría is giving the new law cinco estrellas.

The lack of a language-speaking requirement in the new Uber law is just one of the ways this new legislation failed to address some of aspects of the ride-sharing service.

The law was very specific about things like licensing requirements and criminal background checks for drivers. Limits were spelled out for liability insurance and how vehicle crashes are to be reported.

But there was very little about conduct inside the vehicle. I have some suggestions.

Some people like to talk to drivers, others don’t. So the law should say that Uber drivers can’t go into a 10-minute story that details what important job they had before becoming an Uber driver unless the passenger asks.

If the passenger asks, have at it in the language of your choice. If not, a $250 fine.

Passengers also would be held to a higher standard in my improvements to the Uber law.

For example, the law says drivers can’t discriminate against riders, which would include riders who require a service dog. But the law doesn’t give any guidance about what to do with other riders who insist on to bringing their emotional support animals wherever they go. Including your car.

Based on my own unscientific research, about 95 percent of the people who tote their emotional support dogs while shopping, eating or gadding about, would be just as emotionally stable if they left the pooch home for a couple of hours.

So I’d impose an emotionally leveling 50 percent surcharge on riders who insist on having their Shih Tzu groom himself on your backseat.

The law goes on to say that drivers who are consistently graded poorly by passengers on the one-to-five-star rating system can be denied access to the digital network that allows them to pick up riders in the future.

I would go further to say that all drivers who average fewer than three stars shall be recommended for employment as stunt drivers, hostage negotiators or 800-number customer service employees.

And finally, the law says nothing about tipping your Uber driver. But you should.

Consider it a law of decency.

After all, if tipping is appropriate for the person who successfully puts the cream and sugar in your coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts, then it’s certainly warranted for the hustling driver who didn’t keep you waiting and delivered you safely on South Florida’s roadways.

Besides, if you don’t tip Uber drivers you’re just driving them closer to getting emotional support animals or cursing you in Spanish.

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