DETROIT – Would you let your child ride alone in a car with a complete stranger? Some parents let it happen every day.
Many parents are using Uber and Lyft to get their children home from school or to after-school activities, and that's not the only rule-breaking discovered by the Local 4 Defenders.
KPRC Houston reporter Lauren Freeman said children have found their own way inside ride-sharing vehicles without their parents' knowledge.
"Once that child shuts that door, that's it," Rania Mankarious, of Crime Stoppers, said. "They're at the full mercy of that driver."
Picking up children after school and dropping them off at the movies or the mall used to be typical chores for parents, but now they're being handled by total strangers.
"The youngest passenger that I know for a fact, because of a conversation I started up with this young lady, she was 14 years old," Uber driver Brandy said.
Brandy asked not to have her face shown on camera, but she said she's responded to requests for a ride from children.
"I didn't think anything of it because I assumed that as long as they had an account, everything was verified," she said.
But Uber's policy doesn't allow minors to ride unaccompanied. In many cases, however, Brandy said busy parents were the ones arranging rides for their children.
"There are many parents that do rely on Uber for their children, be it for functions; extracurricular activities," Brandy said.
In other cases, children made the request themselves.
"Some of the kids are setting up their own apps," Brandy said.
"Three girls total in the car," mother Michelle Piraneo said. "Two 13-year-old girls, and my daughter had just turned 14."
Piraneo recently discovered her daughter had been riding in an Uber with friends without an adult present.
"One of her friends had a credit card, so this friend apparently had done it before," Piraneo said.
The teens scheduled several rides with several different drivers.
"It was about four or five times within a couple of hours," Piraneo said.
How did the girls get around the rules? Brandy said she knows some drivers are willing to break policy for cash. She said she's not willing to do it.
"Whether it's someone's livelihood or just extra money on the side, we can't take that risk," Brandy said.
Crime Stoppers said Uber and Lyft do what they can to stop children from riding by themselves.
"The platforms themselves say: do not put your minors in our cars," Brandy said.
The policies are in place for multiple reasons. If there's an accident, the driver can't make decisions about a child's medical care, and even with driver background checks now mandatory, the safety of children isn't allowed to be in the hands of a stranger.
Here is Uber's policy on requests from underage riders:
"In most cities, a rider must be at least 18 years of age to have an Uber account and request rides. Anyone under 18 must be accompanied by someone 18 years of age or older on any ride.
"As a driver-partner in a city that doesn't allow minors to ride, you should decline the ride request if you believe the person requesting the ride is under 18. When picking up riders, if you feel they are underage, you may request they provide a driver's license or ID card for confirmation. If a rider is underage, please do not start the trip or allow them to ride."
Here is Lyft's age requirement policy:
"Unaccompanied minors are prohibited from traveling with most carriers, including TNCs. A passenger must be 18 to sign up for a Lyft account, but if a driver believes a passenger might be underage, the driver may ask the passenger to confirm their age.
"The driver may also let a passenger know that the driver will have to cancel the trip if the passenger is indeed under 18. In addition, drivers can report requests to transport unaccompanied minors by tapping 'Contact Support' below."