Growing up, we were all warned about “stranger danger.” Our childhoods resounded with cautions of, “Never take candy from a stranger,” “Don’t go out alone after dark,” and above all, “Never, ever get in the car with someone you don’t know.”
Yet here we are in the 21st century, where the rideshare industry is now a worldwide service that provides billions of safe travels from one place to another every year.
Oh, how our great-grandparents would be turning in their graves.
But the reality is far removed from their well-meaning words of advice passed down through generations.
Rideshares like Uber and Lyft companies perform their due diligence before allowing a driver to work under the umbrella of their name. As a multi-billion-dollar business, the safety of clients is taken seriously.
That’s not to say that every rider is perfectly safe, though. Human nature is always an unknown variable, so when you embark on a car ride through rideshare, you should expect the unexpected.
While you can’t prepare for every eventuality, you can be proactive for some of them. Take these precautions to keep yourself safe the next time you choose to use rideshare.
Know Before You Go
With so many possible perilous situations that could occur, why are rideshares so popular?
The fact is that the conveniences they offer far outweigh the minute statistical possibility of anything dangerous happening.
Take Uber, for example. Data was compiled in 2016 when sexual assault and Uber fatality accidents made the headlines loudly. Was Uber really safe? Could riders expect to get to their next stops without putting their lives in danger?
The results were conclusive. With more than 15 million Uber rides in the United States in 2016, there were only ten fatalities, which is statistically insignificant compared to the chance of getting in an accident driving yourself.
But what about sexual assault?
So far, a little over one hundred rideshare drivers have been accused of sexually assaulting their passengers. But again, out of tens of millions of rides, this statistic is an improbability, too.
Improbable isn’t the same as impossible, so you should still take precautions. You are, after all, doing the frequently-warned-against action of getting in a car with a stranger. There’s a reason this advice is still given to our own children.
Protect Yourself in Advance with These Tips
Rideshare programs range from the well-known Uber and Lyft to the lesser known local competitors like VIA in Manhattan, Chicago, and Washington or Wingz, found at many major airports.
Because there are so many options, you can’t rely on one app to keep you safe. You have to integrate some common-sense rules with technology for the best results.
Many of the horrific headline stories about kidnapped rideshare passengers happened because the rider carelessly got in the wrong car. Some of the other incidents were preventable had the rider taken safety precautions.
None of these accidents were the victims’ fault, but their situations are lessons learned for the rest of us.
Whether you’re traveling in a group or by yourself, accidents can happen. But if you’re alone, elderly, or very young, you need to be on extra alert before and during the car ride.
Follow these tips to help ensure your safety:
- Make others aware of your situation. Text or call a friend and let them know where you are and where you are going. The rideshare app lets you know who is picking you up, so it’s simple to screenshot the information and send it to a few people in your close circle.
You may be tired or cranky and not in the mood to talk, but for your safety, it’s a smart idea to be on the phone when you get in the rideshare.
The driver most likely isn’t going to be insulted when you inform them that you’re telling whomever you’re talking to the details of the ride. If they do get upset, you may need to reconsider riding with them. They should understand the dangers and your concern for your safety.
If you prefer to communicate via text, ask your driver for an ETA for your destination and let them know that a friend will be expecting you reasonably around that time.
In our society, it’s difficult for many of us to say things that could be taken as an insult by the other person. This is your safety at stake. Speak up.
Don’t worry about hurting your driver’s feelings. Let them know ahead of time that you’re not alone and people know where you are and who the driver is.
For extra security, take a picture of the driver and text it to a friend. You can reassure your driver that you’ll delete the picture when you get to your destination.
Some drivers will pose willingly because they know you are concerned. If your driver has a problem with this, consider it a red flag warning.
- Use the information the app provides. Have you heard the comical stories, or maybe been the key person in one yourself, about the distracted shopper leaving the store?
They head to their parking spot on autopilot and jump in the unlocked door, only to realize the junk in the car doesn’t look familiar, and neither does the person sitting in the other seat staring at them in shock.
They got in the wrong car.
This humorous tale that so many of us know well isn’t quite as funny in a rideshare situation. In fact, it can be deadly.
Frequently, rideshare cars look the same because the drivers prefer to get common cars with good gas mileage. You may walk out of an airport or busy shopping mall and see a line of almost identical cars waiting to pick up their riders.
Take a few extra steps before you jump into the one that you think is yours.
Rideshare apps usually provide you with the make, model, and license plate of the car that is going to pick you up. Check that all of this information matches completely.
Don’t let the driver convince you that they’re using a borrowed car for the day, for any reason. Cancel the ride, report the situation to the rideshare company, and get a new driver.
- Go with your gut instinct. Unless you’re the type of person who sees the bad in every situation, no matter how innocent it is, you should trust your gut.
Before you get in the car, check the driver. Have a mini conversation through the window to verify that he or she is who you are looking for. Check the photo on your phone and compare it to the person behind the wheel.
Ask them for their name, without providing it for them. See if they’re aware of the destination you are heading to. During this little discourse, you can learn a lot about the person.
They may seem groggy or display signs that they are under the influence of something, or you may get a “creepy” feel in general. If, for any reason, you don’t feel safe with that driver, make an excuse to cancel the ride, even if you have to pay the driver anyway.
The extra few dollars is nothing compared to the knowledge that you may have prevented something dangerous from happening to you.
4 Engage in some car-riding safety. When you ride alone in a rideshare, always sit in the back seat and put your seatbelt on. Even if the driver is perfectly harmless, accidents happen.
Before you get in, double check the child-safety locks on the side door. If there is a locking device – common on modern cars – you will see a lever that needs to be pushed up or down or something similar.
If the child lock is engaged, unlock it or bring it to the driver’s attention if the lock must be activated by a button in the front. Don’t shut the door until you have seen the driver disengage the child lock.
- Use the “share” option to notify a friend. Uber and other rideshare apps now offer a “share” option for their riders. This lets you send the details of your trip, who the driver is, and your ETA to anyone you want. The receiver doesn’t need the app to get the information.
For extra security, let the driver know you’ve shared the details and are expected at your destination.
- Prepare for an emergency. You’re more likely to be involved in a car accident than to be assaulted by your driver. Regardless, you should be prepared for any emergency by having 911 on speed dial and ready at the touch of a button.
If you do ever notice that the driver is off route, threatening you, or you feel in any way that you are in danger, turn the volume off, dial 911, and act normal for the situation. Help will trace your device and find you.
Rideshare Accidents Happen, But Hershey Law is Here for You
Even with the most precautionary actions, it’s possible to be involved in an accident when you take a rideshare. Since this industry is still relatively new, the laws are evolving all the time, but the attorneys at Hershey Law are always on top of the legal changes.
If you were injured in an incident involving rideshare, call Hershey Law for your free consultation to see how we can help you.