Tips for staying safe while using Uber or Lyft

By Malinda Williams, executive director of Community Against Violence, Inc. (CAV)
Posted 5/30/19

Instead of calling a taxi, I recently used Uber ride services during a trip. And (of course!) I had the opportunity to talk with drivers about safety for themselves and passengers.Since beginning in …

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Tips for staying safe while using Uber or Lyft

Posted

Instead of calling a taxi, I recently used Uber ride services during a trip. And (of course!) I had the opportunity to talk with drivers about safety for themselves and passengers.

Since beginning in 2009, Uber, and its smaller competitor Lyft, have created a global revolution in the ride-hailing travel industry, grabbing a large and ever-growing share of traditional taxi business. These transportation services allow people to order a private or shared car with just a few taps on their mobile phone app. Because payment is withdrawn automatically from users' accounts, you don't have to carry cash or a credit card.

However, since 2014 there have been more than 100 reports to law enforcement about incidents of sexual assault committed by Uber and Lyft drivers upon riders, according to a CNN investigation. As with all sexual violence, these statistics are presumed to be underreported, as is typical in these types of crimes. And, you've probably heard of the murder of a South Carolina woman by someone she thought was her Uber ride, and the rape and sexual battery by a Georgia man impersonating an Uber driver.

Uber was slow to emphasize safety during early years. But the impact of assaults, abuse and other crimes upon customers by drivers or those posing as drivers has pushed the company into stronger safeguards. In 2018, Uber announced a series of safety measures designed to assure riders that the company is notified if any of their drivers were involved in a criminal offense and that all their drivers were screened with annual background checks. The company also added a "panic button" within the mobile app to connect and send the passenger's location immediately to an emergency 911 responder if a rider felt in danger.

Still, everyone needs to be alert and cautious when hopping into a stranger's car. Both Uber and Lyft offer these safety tips:

Wait indoors for your ride until the app shows the driver has arrived.

Ask the driver for the name of the person they are picking up (it appears on their app).

Compare car make, model, license plate, driver's photo and name to what's listed on your app.

Never get in a car with a driver claiming to be an Uber or Lyft driver. Doublecheck the identifying information on the app.

Look for the "beacon." Uber has begun rolling out a glowing sign, or "beacon," in some locations. It glows in a color the would-be passenger selects, so they'll know exactly which vehicle is the one ordered.

Sit in the backseat. This allows you some personal space from the driver and makes it easier to exit quickly if needed.

Notify a friend/family member by tapping the "Share Status" in the app to send them driver's name, photo, license plate and location. They can track your trip and see your ETA, even without their having the app.

Keep your valuables close - neither company has a reimbursement policy for lost items.

Don't share too much personal information with the driver. The apps have a dedicated communication link between you and the driver, if necessary.

Trust your instincts! If you feel something is wrong or possibly unsafe, contact 911 immediately.

Use the app's driver evaluation to rate your driver and note any problems, concerns or incidents.

Of course, riding in a taxicab can have dangers, too. You can make use of some of the suggestions above when you use a traditional yellow cab, too.

Malinda Williams is the executive director of Community Against Violence, Inc. (CAV) which offers free confidential support and assistance for adult and child survivors of sexual and domestic violence, dating violence and stalking; community and school violence prevention programs; re-education BIP groups for domestic violence offenders; counseling; shelter; transitional housing; and community thrift store. To talk with someone or get information on services available, call CAV's 24-hour crisis line at (575) 758-9888 or visit the website at TaosCAV.org.

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