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LAW ELEVATED: Mississippi: Uber has arrived

SIDNEY ALLEN

SIDNEY ALLEN

One of the most exciting developments of the recently concluded 2016 legislative session was the passage of legislation to welcome ridesharing companies like Uber to Mississippi.

In case you have not experienced a ridesharing service such as Uber in Jackson or in other markets around the country, they usually entail connecting people who need a ride with a certified driver through a smartphone application.

With the passage of House Bill 1381 by overwhelming bipartisan majorities in both chambers, Mississippi joins 29 other states and Washington, D.C. in creating a regulatory framework for transportation network companies (TNCs). Under the new law, TNCs will be required to perform multi-state/multi-jurisdictional background checks on potential drivers, have insurance in place at all times and will demand a zero-tolerance policy for drug or alcohol use. Lawmakers went to great lengths to ensure citizens across our state would be protected when using ridesharing platforms.

Mississippians will now have additional safe, reliable and affordable transportation options available to them. Additionally, business travelers and tourists who visit our state will now find similar amenities they are accustomed to in other states. You simply tap a button to call for a ride and your driver’s photo, vehicle details and estimated arrival are immediately activated. If you do not have cash, you do not need to worry. Once you have arrived at your destination, your credit card on file will be charged. You and your driver are also required to rate one another and provide anonymous feedback about your trip. As an added safety feature, you can also send a loved one a link to your trip for them to monitor in real time. As you can see, visitors can expect clean automobiles and courteous and safe drivers which will help us to live up to our mantra as the “Hospitality State.”

Ridesharing will also help improve our quality of life and safety on our roads across Mississippi as these services can help significantly reduce DUI rates. Recently, the DMV Commissioner in Virginia pointed to the availability of ridesharing services like Uber as contributing to an incredible 25 percent reduction in number of alcohol-related motor vehicle fatalities. Our college-centered markets such as Hattiesburg, Oxford and Starkville could be among the biggest beneficiaries of TNCs. By providing more safe and reliable transportation options, everyone benefits.

Ridesharing will also provide additional earning opportunities for those seeking part-time or full-time work. The flexible hours of earning money as a driver is one of the main reasons it’s an appealing opportunity.  Through some services, drivers can work as long as they want — day or night, weekday or weekends. It is 100 percent flexible and there is no minimum number of required hours. This flexibility means that drivers can supplement their income and achieve their financial goals whenever it works best for them. It allows people from all walks of life – from aspiring musicians to coffee shop owners and grad students to retirees – to use ridesharing services like Uber to supplement their income. This is a unique opportunity to work when it fits into your schedule, not the other way around.

The legislature and the governor are to be commended for taking steps to welcome this innovative and modern option to all of Mississippi. Once HB 1381 becomes law on July 1, and regulations are put in place by the Department of Insurance soon thereafter, we will see Uber and possibly other competitors launch operations across our state and offer this service to our citizens and visitors alike.

» Sidney P. Allen Jr. serves as senior government relations adviser for Butler Snow LLP in Jackson, MS. He focuses his practice on corporate, association and non-profit representation in the legislative and administrative branches of Mississippi government, as well as serving as a political adviser for his clients. www.butlersnow.com

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