SALT LAKE COUNTY (News4Utah) – A West Jordan woman is glad to be safe after a night out with her friends took a scary turn during a Lyft ride Sunday morning.
Ticha Fukuda, 22, was out celebrating a friend’s birthday at Gracie’s Bar in downtown Salt Lake City. One of her friends requested a ride around 1:15 a.m. through Lyft, a ride share company, since they had been drinking and wanted to get home safely.
Her friend ordered an “XL” ride, requesting a vehicle that would fit all six of the people in her group. But she said when they got inside the Lyft driver’s car, he refused them the extra seat in the vehicle and had four of her friends squeeze in the back without being able to put on their seat belts.
“That was the first red flag,” said Fukuda. “I asked, ‘Are we going to put these seats up?’ He said, ‘No. You guys can all squeeze in the back.”
She began to question the safety of the vehicle when she noticed the ride was bumpy and he began driving erratically.
“He said he had disarmed his air bags,” said Fukuda. “We noticed he was going about 50 miles per hour on the freeway. We asked him if he knew the speed limit was 70. He said, ‘Yeah’ but just kept driving unusually slow.”
Utah Highway Patrol (UHP) said another driver noticed their Lyft vehicle driving abnormally on I-15 southbound near the I-215 belt route and reported them to law enforcement. A trooper pulled over the vehicle shortly after.
“The driver just stopped in the middle of the road,” said Fukuda. “I said, ‘You need to pull over on the right-hand side to the shoulder.’ He said, ‘No. It’s okay. We’re good right here.'”
UHP Sgt. Lawrence Hopper said the responding trooper noticed possible impairment from the Lyft driver and conducted a field sobriety test. Based on the results, the driver was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.
“I was not surprised by the result. I wasn’t surprised that he was arrested or that he was impaired at all cause it makes a lot of sense with his actions,” said Fukuda.
She said she’s thankful to be alive, because the outcome could have been deadly.
“I’ve played out so many scenarios in my head. That belt route is very curvy. He could’ve crashed or he could’ve dropped us off safely and crash with someone else,” said Fukuda. “It was his job to get us home safe. Yet, he put us at risk and in harm’s way for being impaired and driving in an unsafe vehicle.”
Sgt. Hopper advises that if you’re ever in a similar situation where you don’t feel safe and cannot leave the vehicle, call 911 as soon as possible.
But if you’re not on the freeway and can exit the vehicle, leave when the vehicle is at a red light or comes to a complete stop.
“Just make sure that when you get out, you’re not going into oncoming traffic,” said Sgt. Hopper. “And as soon as you leave the vehicle, report the driver immediately so they don’t pick up someone else and put their lives in danger.”
A spokesperson from Lyft issued this statement to News4Utah:
“The incident described is truly frightening and we have reached out to the passenger to offer our support. The safety of the Lyft community remains our top priority and the driver’s account has been permanently deactivated. We stand ready to assist law enforcement with their investigation.”
Sgt. Hopper said the Lyft driver was not under the influence of alcohol because they passed their breathalyzer test. Investigators are waiting for the results from his blood draw to see if or what was in his system.