I think the creation of ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft have been a great addition to the way we get around. Personally, I hated the cabs in DC. They took longer routes to get increased fares and sometimes wouldn’t take you to your destination because the probability of driver picking up another fare in that area was low. So when ride sharing services started becoming available in DC, I jumped right on it and I love it. I use Uber at least 5-10 times per week. With a quick use of an app on my phone, I’ve got a car ready to pick me up in minutes. It’s so convenient; you can’t beat it. I live in downtown DC and haven’t owned a car in over ten years. I know that might seem so odd to some but I really don’t need one. I have access to public transportation with Metro, I use ZipCar (car rentals by the hour) if I need to leave the city, I can walk to many places, and then I use Uber.
I get asked a lot if I feel safe when I use Uber. While my answer is always, ‘yes’ it’s always caveated with ‘but I’m cautious’. Because let’s not forget that feeling safe is relative. Yes I “feel safe" but really what I mean is that I don’t have concerns using a ride share service because I make sure that I follow some simple rules.
There are many stories of people who have run into issues with their ride share driver from minor verbal altercations to more severe and life altering threats or even attacks. Most recently, the tragic murder of college student Samantha Josephon made headlines because she mistakenly got into a vehicle she thought was her Uber. It’s terrible that we have to live in a world where evil people exist and want inflict harm onto others. But it is reality and we can’t turn a blind eye to it. All we can do is prepare ourselves with the knowledge and tools to help prevent something happening and to give us a fighting chance if harm were to come our way.
Since I would consider myself an avid Uber user I wanted to share my tips that I follow when using a car sharing service. Some of these tips may seem obvious but it surprises me just how many that use car sharing don’t follow them; I’ve had people try to get into my Uber thinking it was theirs because well, they just didn’t follow some of the basic rules.
8 Ride Share Safety Tips
Always verify the car you are getting into by double-checking that that license plate, make, and model of the car matches the information in the app. It’s impossible to know what every car model looks like but start with car’s make and color. Then verify the license plate. That is your key. If the license plate number doesn’t match what is in the app, don’t get in. The driver can bitch about it and makes excuses but if it doesn’t match, don’t take a chance. Report the discrepancy with the app’s customer service. Don’t fret over any potential cancellation fee you might get charged because your life isn’t worth that fee and most likely the service will reimburse the charge.
Before you get in, ask the driver who the ride is for. Have the driver tell you your name. If he can’t tell or doesn’t know, don’t get in. You can also ask for the driver to verify his name and you can make sure that matches what is in the app as well.
Once you are in your ride, Uber has a feature where you can share your route with another person. This allows the person(s) you sent this to to track your route. I’m not sure about Lyft as I don’t use it but I’m sure they have a similar feature.
Choose to sit in the backseat of the car instead of sitting in the front seat. By sitting in the back you’ve got a little barrier between you and the driver. This allows you to keep an eye on the driver and where you are going. While it’s not much distance between you and the driver, it’s better than being right next to them. The backseat gives us some distance where you can potentially have time to draw your self-defense tool should you need to. You can also discreetly text and it also provides two doors to get out from versus one from the passenger seat.
5. It’s perfectly normal to talk with your driver but be cautious of the information you give out. I’ve had a mix of drivers…some super talkative and others where we don’t really speak except for the formalities of verification and a quick exchange of pleasantries. But for those that love to talk and the ones that are really inquisitive be mindful of the information you are telling. I’ll have drivers that, while the conversation is harmless and are just making conversation, will ask and make comments such as, “this is a nice neighborhood, is that where you live?” And my answer is always, “No, I had an errand in the neighborhood.” It just kind of creeps me out when they start getting a little too nosy.
6. Within the app itself, keep your profile information minimal. Uber doesn’t share your actually phone number with driver. The driver has access to contact you but it’s through the app where the number is made anonymous. For your name, instead of providing your full first and last name, just include your first name and the first initial of your last name. Personally, I don’t include a photo in my app profile either. I don’t think it’s necessary.
7. When it comes time to order your ride sharing service, wait inside to request your ride. Don’t wait on the corner of a street with your head down on your phone. If you can, request your ride inside and wait inside until your car arrives. Be mindful of the time of day and area you are requesting your ride.
8. If you’re in an unfamiliar city and staying at hotel, check with the concierge to see if the recommend any ride share services. Some cities don’t have ride sharing so it’s good to double-check what is available. Additionally, you can always map out your destination using the map app on your phone so you have an idea of where you need to go before requesting your ride.
Bonus tip and I feel this should go without saying but always buckle up. Even in the backseat.
Evil people prey on easy targets so do what you can to avoid being that target. If it’s late at night and you have to take ride share alone, be even more on top of your game in terms of situational awareness. If anything seems suspicious, don’t get in and always trust your gut.
If you find yourself inside the car and feeling unsafe, use your voice and request to stop the car and get out. Lastly, call the police if are feeling threatened. While these companies do their due diligence in vetting their drivers through background checks, you just never know and it’s better to be safe than sorry. I believe it’s on the responsibility of the company to be finding more ways to help improve safety and security for their passengers that use their service. But sadly, there isn’t much they can do if one of their drivers wants to do harm to someone. So it’s up to us to do our part and make sure we are taking responsibly for our safety by being prepared and following these safety tips.