Never get in a stranger’s car. Unless there’s an app for that. Uber and Lyft have exploded in popularity in recent years, with ordinary citizens acting as driver-contractors. It works like this: you use the app to call for a car to get you where you want to go. And boom! One appears. You hop in the back and off you go. Pretty much a taxi…except not a taxi at all.
For one, there’s no insurance: you agreed not to hold Uber liable for anything when you signed up for the app. Moreover, Uber and Lyft can’t look at criminal backgrounds farther back than seven years in the vast majority of cases, according to Ridester: meaning that your driver could have committed a felony eight years ago. (It’s worth noting that two women in Northern California filed a class-action lawsuit against Uber in November “on behalf of women passengers who experienced ‘rape, sexual assault, physical violence or gender-motivated harassment’ by Uber drivers,” as Mashable reported.)
Luckily, there are some ways that can help you to stay safe in this new Wild West of grabbing a ride.
One of Uber’s perks? You don’t have to hover on the side of the street, waiting for someone to pick you up. Take advantage of it. You don’t need everyone and their brother knowing that you’re waiting for a ride home alone.
Make Sure It’s A Match
Make sure the license plate and driver match what you’ve seen on the app. Don’t just hop in the car with someone who says they’re an Uber driver. You need to make sure that this person is who they say they are. Hopefully they have good reviews behind their name. You can cancel your ride within five minutes and try to rebook — but sometimes you’ll get the same driver. You might want to try another service, though many people drive for both, so that may not be helpful.
Share Your ETA With Friends
Mention this out loud, so the driver knows someone’s waiting for you on the other end. That might help as a crime deterrent. And if something does go wrong, someone’s there to call the police. The Atlanta-Journal Constitution notes that Uber’s app has a feature which lets you share your driver’s information with a friend, and then allows them to track your route — all without downloading the app. Lyft users can “SEND ETA” which will text family and friends an ETA, plus a link to a current route and location.
Use The Backseat
This might seem counterintuitive — child-safety locks! — but Uber says this assures you can exit safely on either side of the vehicle. This also ensures space between you and the driver.
Rethink If You’re Drunk Or Tired
Especially if you’re a woman. These are the times when you’re most vulnerable, and you might not want to get in the car with a stranger.
Don’t Make It Personal
Your driver doesn’t need to know too much about you. They have it all on the screen in front of them: your destination. They don’t even need to know if it’s your house that you’re headed to (and, one could argue, they especially don’t need to know that). Don’t exchange phone numbers either, for any reason — if drivers and passengers need to call each other, Uber will encrypt the call for you.
Don’t Ride Alone
We know this is the hardest thing to do. I mean, you’re using a rideshare service so you can get to where you, specifically, need to go. But it’s also the absolute best way to assure your safety. Strength in numbers.