Local Uber driver responds to city's proposed taxi regulations

Savannah Vasquez
Uber Logo

Cathy Lookabaugh recently moved to Destin from California and brought her business along with her. Lookabaugh, a military wife, runs a versatile business as a for-hire driver for Uber, using her personal vehicle to drive customers from place to place in a new concept called ride-sharing.

Following news that the City of Destin is looking into forming new regulations for for-hire drivers, and also in response to a local taxi driver’s lawsuit against Uber and Lyft, Lookabaugh said she wanted to shed some light on what it’s like to drive for Uber in Destin.

“I have a unique perspective,” she said. “I started driving for Uber and Lyft in California, then I moved to Destin in June. Everything I have experienced has been positive. It’s been a lot of fun because a lot of people here are tourists.”

In response to the question of competing unfairly against local taxi service, Lookabaugh said that she doesn’t feel her business takes away from local taxi drivers as the hiring platform works only with customers who have downloaded the Uber application on their smart phones.

“Most of my passengers look for Uber when they get here and they are excited to find it,” she said. “I think Destin needs Uber because it’s a tourist town and when people get off the airplane they are looking for it.”

For her part, Lookabaugh said she believes the added option of a set-rate, clean and efficient ride will keep Destin locals and tourists safer and happier.

“What I’ve heard from my customers is that the taxis here have no fixed rate and no uniformed rate,” she said. “Some have told me that their taxi didn’t even have a meter. With Uber, the rate here is $1.80 per mile, and the passenger pays through the app.”

Her main reason for driving, Lookabaugh said, was fueled by an incident in California where a pedestrian was killed by a drunk driver.

“One of the reasons why I started doing it is that I recognize the need for people who have been drinking,” she said. “That’s why I drive, so that no body else has to go through that.”

Lookabaugh told The Log that she believes the market is changing the way business is run; leaning towards a more technologically-connected platform. She said that Destin would benefit by allowing Uber drivers to help especially with the busy tourist season.

“Some people will not use Uber because they are used to taxis; it’s traditional,” she said. “But there are people that are never going to use a taxi. I understand where the taxis are coming from, and I just don’t have all the answers; it’s just a new economy.”

As for licensing and background checks, the large denominator in the recent local lawsuit against Uber and Lyft, Lookabaugh said, Uber has an extensive screening system.

“They take our drivers license, our registration, our insurance, and our vehicle information,” she said. “They know what car we have, and it depends on the market the age of the car they will accept. I was background checked in California, and I also got a new background check in Florida.”