In December, Uber released statistics that showed that 5,981 incidents of sexual assault had been reported to the ridesharing app between 2017 and 2018.
This staggering number confirms an early investigation by CNN and anecdotal stories of people across the country who have experienced car accidents, theft, and sexual assault while using ridesharing apps.
Safety.com’s Emily Ferron lays out the key safety concerns: fake drivers, car and pedestrian accidents, and drivers with criminal intent.
“While one could argue that the rate of these incidents seems relatively low given the volume of rideshare use,” Ferron explains, “it’s also true that these tragedies are somewhat preventable and their occurrence can and should be minimized through intentional thought, action, and policy.”
Autoblog.com emphasizes the danger of getting into the wrong car, which they argue is one of the “preventable dangers” associated with ridesharing.
While Uber’s report is justifiably frightening, there are steps we can take to stay safe.
Here are some things to keep in mind when ridesharing:
#1. Wait in a safe place for your ride.
Always wait for your ride in a safe place – whether that be in your friend’s home, a restaurant, or wherever it may be. This extra protection can go a long way.
#2. Confirm the license plate number, model and make of the car, the driver, and that they know your name.
Unfortunately, there are people out there with mal-intent who pretend to be Uber and Lyft drivers. They claim to be using their friend’s car, or their car is in the shop, to pick up unsuspecting passengers. As mentioned above, there is also a considerable risk when you get in the wrong car.
To prevent any situation like this, be sure to confirm the license plate number, model, and make of the car. Per Uber’s rules, the vehicle the driver shows up with is the car that Uber should have on record. If it isn’t the same, don’t get in.
Moreover, all legitimate Uber and Lyft drivers should know your name and destination. Ask them to confirm this before getting in to ensure this is, in fact, your ride.
#3. Practice in-car safety.
There are several ways you can practice in-car safety.
First of all, wear your seatbelt.
Ideally, it would be best if you rode with friends.
When possible, sit in the back. This gives you more personal space and the ability to scan both the road as well as the driver. You should always be alert and aware of where the car is going in case something goes wrong.
It’s important to share as little personal information as possible. You may also want to consider putting in an address down the street from your house to protect your privacy.
Lastly, you will want to avoid getting into an argument with your driver. You don’t know how it will escalate. When in doubt, keep quiet with your eyes on the road.
#4. Let loved ones know when you’re in a rideshare.
Ridesharing apps allow you to share the status of your ride with others, take advantage of this!
By simply clicking “Share trip status” in a Lyft or “Share route” in an Uber, you allow your loved ones to track where you are moment by moment.
On top of that, you should let your driver know your trip is being tracked. One way to do this is by calling your loved one, or pretending to, and letting them know you’re in an Uber and will be sharing the status with them.
#5. Use personal safety apps.
In addition to the features offered by Lyft and Uber, other personal safety apps can add additional layers of protection. Ferron recommends the iWitness app, Tego, and The Nimb Ring. All three offer you a personal security system. The iWitness app includes a security camera and alarm, Tego tracks you with the option for video recording, and The Nimb Ring is a panic button concealed as a ring.
#6. Follow your gut (and the rules).
Listen to your gut. If something feels off, it probably is. You can use the services mentioned above to call for help or file a complaint with the ride-hailing app. Lastly, make sure to follow the rules of the app yourself to ensure that everyone is safe.