When Uber driver Edward Caban accepted a fare in Newport Beach from rider Benjamin Golden Friday night, chances are he didn't know it would end with a few quick punches upside his head, a couple violent tugs of his hair, and an attempt to slam his head through his driver-side windshield.
But dashcam footage Caban uploaded to YouTube seems to show just that. In the video, titled "Uber driver pepper sprays drunk passenger," Caban and Golden can be heard arguing about directions. Golden frequently hiccups. Caban, knowing he's about to kick Golden out of his car, turns his camera around from a street view and into his cab at just after the two-minute mark, and calmly pulls over into the parking lot of a shopping center located at 1835 Newport Boulevard in Costa Mesa, California.
Caban was apparently suspicious of the passenger almost as soon as he'd picked him up. Clearly inebriated, Golden allegedly refused to wear his seatbelt, couldn't tell Caban where he was going with anything resembling coherence, and kept passing out. "He was very aggressive, he was swearing at me, just fading in and out of consciousness," Caban told a local NBC affiliate.
In the video, once Caban decides he's had enough, he tells Golden to get out of his car or else he'll call the police. Golden opens the door, and begins to exit. But before he does, he attacks.
Caban has pepper spray at the ready, and empties as much of his canister as he can into Golden's face when shit pops off. The two get out of the car, Caban calls the police, and can be heard yelling at Golden, "Yeah, you got maced, motherfucker!"
When police arrived, Golden was vomiting in the parking lot as a result of the pepper spray. "I wanted to make sure he didn't get away," Caban told KNBC. "I have lost so much money on people like him and I'm done dealing with it. They take the food right out of my mouth."
Police officers arrested Golden shortly after 8 PM on suspicion of assault and disorderly conduct and booked him into the jail at the Costa Mesa Police Department, according to the Orange County Register. His bail was set at $500.
Golden has been barred for life from ever using Uber again, company spokesperson Kayla Whaling told the LA Times. But the incident suggests that ride-sharing poses risks not just for passengers—who have been victims of numerous high-profile assaults—but drivers as well.
Emily Guendelsberger is a reporter and editor living in Philadelphia. In May of this year, she wrote a cover story for the now defunct Philadelphia City Paper, "I Was An Undercover Uber Driver," detailing her month working for the company. She tells VICE she never feared for her safety during her brief run as a chauffeur, "not even once." But she did carry pepper spray in her car's center console, she says, mostly because her editor at the time insisted.
Still, Guendelsberger says drunk passengers were a regular thing, especially at night—as you would expect from most car services. But for the most part, drivers could anticipate drunk passengers based on the location (bar) and time of night (close) they requested the service. Bars in Philly shut down at 2 AM, she says, and just after they close their doors, Uber enacts surge pricing, causing the price to spike. "If someone wasn't smart enough to wait a bit before ordering a ride, and would hit us up right at 2:10 when we were in the middle of a price surge, I knew there was a good chance they were going to be really drunk," she tells me.
Though drunk passengers never made her feel unsafe, "I did worry a couple times that a passenger was going to puke in my car," she recalls. Inebriated passengers also had another annoying habit: They frequently believed they knew the best route to whatever destination it was they were headed, even when handicapped by an addled brain and up against the better judgement of the driver's GPS.
Clearly, that's what set the wheels in motion for the altercation between Caban and Golden. In the description of Caban's YouTube upload of that fateful fare, he writes, "I understand it just a job hazard, but UBER DRIVERS DONT GET PAID ENOUGH TO DEAL WITH THIS STUFF!"
Caban is apparently not kidding around, telling the local NBC affiliate that the attack was enough to make him stop driving for the company.
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