Uber Driver Attacked And The Video Goes Viral

Harry here.  I posted a pretty scary video over the weekend and I think it really struck a chord with a lot of drivers.  We’ve all been in similar situations and for most of us, things rarely escalate this far.  But this video showed just how quickly things can get out of hand and fortunately this driver was very well prepared.

I know that I’ll be buying a good dash cam very soon and after a conversation with my wife, even she thinks it’d be a good idea for me to carry a taser or pepper spray when driving late at night.  So today, I asked RSG contributor, Christian Perea, to update us on the situation that occurred and take a look at all the ways drivers can protect themselves going forward.

You’ve probably seen it by now, but over the weekend a video surfaced on Facebook of a driver using pepper spray to protect himself from a pretty drunk passenger.  The video quickly went viral after the driver (Edward Caban) posted it and the passenger (Benjamin Golden) was quickly shamed all over the internet.  The driver handled this situation pretty well and I also think it made a lot of drivers realize just how valuable a dash cam can be.  Video is very very compelling.

Uber Driver Attacked And The Video Goes Viral
Uber Driver Attacked And The Video Goes Viral

This video was disturbing for me because it felt like many situations I’ve encountered while driving. I’m sure we’ve all been in this drivers shoes more than a few times before.

In fact, last week I had a passenger slap me in the back of my head after I drove her to an Oracle concert and chastised her for sneaking a beer into my car and kicked her out. I wished I had had a dash-cam like this guy at the time because it would have made pressing charges much easier.


For those who didn’t watch the whole thing, the passenger is basically too intoxicated to enter his address or to provide any clear clue as to where the destination is. At the same time, the passenger is very demanding and aggressive with the driver.

In anticipation of trouble, Mr. Caban turns his dash-cam around to face the interior of the car right before he boots the passenger. Since the passenger is uncooperative, he attacks the driver without warning and lands several blows on the driver’s head. The driver responds by unloading a bunch of mace into the face of the bro-magnon who immediately exits the vehicle and runs away.

What Happened Afterwards?

It appears that the passenger was eventually arrested for assault and being drunk in public. The driver seems to be in okay shape after sustaining some blows to the head. We reached out to Uber for comment and got the following;

We’ve been in contact with Mr. Caban and are thankful he is doing ok. We will provide any information to the investigating authorities as needed. The rider involved in this incident has been permanently banned from the platform.

So at this time it does not appear that the driver was deactivated for defending himself and it appears that Uber is supporting the actions of the driver. A few months ago, Uber banned drivers from carrying weapons after an Uber driver stopped a shooting and Lyft has always had an explicit ban on weapons.
I am happy to see that they do not include mace (and perhaps stun-guns) as weapons. Regardless of whatever the policy is though, I would rather be deactivated from a platform than deactivated from life.
Here’s the confusing response we got from Uber CS when we e-mailed asking what Uber’s policy on non-lethal weapons was:

Uber Driver Attacked And The Video Goes Viral
Uber Driver Attacked And The Video Goes Viral

How’d The Driver Handle Things?

There’s really no arguing that this driver was very well prepared.  I’m sure there are a few things he could have done differently but we all know how difficult it is to deal with intoxicated passengers at times.  For us here at RSG, the biggest takeaways were:

  • Be Proactive: If you have a passenger unable to place a pin or unwilling to give a destination, consider not starting the ride in the first place.
  • Have a Dash Cam: I don’t know if this situation would have gotten nearly as much attention if there wasn’t video.  Video is very compelling.
  • Carry A Non-lethal Weapon: This guy was clearly wasted but he still posed a very real threat to the driver’s safety.  Any type of non-lethal weapon (like pepper spray from Amazon) would have done the trick in this situation.
  • Exit the Car: If you’re going to kick someone out, make sure you do it in a well lit place (preferably a police station), and exit the car first so they can’t attack you from behind.

Update on the Situation (11/2/15):

This picture is circulating around driver forums right now..
This picture is circulating around driver forums right now..

The passenger appears to be Benjamin Golden, who lost his position as a Taco Bell Marketing Manager. Here is a statement from Taco Bell given to CNBC:

“Given the behavior of the individual, it is clear he can no longer work for us,” Taco Bell said in a statement emailed to CNBC. “We have also offered and encouraged him to seek professional help.”

More reading/updates:

Should You Get Mace/Taser?

It is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. Especially if you drive late at night. Uber and Lyft try to play these incidents off like this sort of thing is incredibly rare. But it is not as rare as it may seem. In 5,500 rides, I have kicked out 5 people and any number of them could have become just as violent as the guy who assaulted the driver.

Perhaps in the beginning it wasn’t necessary but as these services get cheaper and become more widely used by the public with greater frequency we should expect that the crowd will begin to resemble the traditional taxi (and bus) crowd. More people, more incidents.

So I say go get a stun-gun or some pepper-spray and make sure you know how to use it in an emergency situation.

Can You Legally Record Someone?

Video recording outside of the vehicle is no problem. However audio recording is where it gets a little tricky. Some states require that you notify anybody that they may be recorded within your place of business.

It’s pretty clear in this video that having audio of the entire interaction helped the driver because it showed proof that the driver was acting cool and professional in an otherwise stressful and scary situation. Again, I would rather get deactivated from Uber/Lyft than get deactivated permanently from life. Perhaps having a camera acts as a deterrent.

You could always put a sticker on your backseat in plain view that says “To ensure passenger and driver safety, you may be tape-recorded while in this vehicle.”

Editor’s Note:  We are not lawyers and this is not meant as legal advice.  If you plan on using a dash cam, know the laws in your state and abide by them in order to make the best use of your dash cam evidence.  One thing I do know though is that the fines associated with unlawfully recording are probably much less severe than the harm that can come out of a false criminal accusation. 

Dash-Cams for Accidents and Tickets

If you drive long enough you are going to get into an accident or get pulled over. Not because you are a bad driver but because you are going to be on the road a lot more often than anyone else. Having a dash-cam can prove your innocence or show the details of a car accident to an insurance agent. It pays for itself after the first time avoiding any of these incidents.

Related Article: 4 Reasons Why Drivers Need a Dash-Cam

You can find dash cams for cheap on Amazon and here’s one that we recommend.

Drivers, what do you think about the way this situation played out and how the driver handled it?  Would you have done something differently or did he do a good job?

-Christian @ RSG