Ride-Sharing Safety Guide for Uber and Lyft Riders

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Uber and Lyft are two of the most popular ride-sharing companies, connecting passengers with drivers who use their private vehicles to provide transportation on demand. Even though millions of people use ride-sharing as an alternative to public transportation or taxi, there are still concerns about the safety of these services.

Although each company has hiring policies and safety guidelines for drivers and passengers, accidents and assaults still happen. Many people are concerned that these guidelines are not enough.

Is ride-sharing safe?

Safety is paramount for both riders and drivers. Tens of millions of rideshare trips are made each day. To ensure that all users remain safe, each rideshare company is constantly adding additional safety features to its apps.

Uber’s 2019 safety report noted that 3,045 sexual assaults, 58 fatalities, and 9 fatal physical assaults were reported out of the 1.3 billion total rides completed in the prior year, 2018. 

In response to these sobering statistics, Uber initiated new programs, such as the Industry Sharing Safety Program. This program shares information about sexual predators with other rideshare companies, reducing the chances that another rideshare company will hire these individuals.

Uber also added more safety features to its app, including a PIN verification system that prevents riders from getting into the wrong vehicle. Uber also now offers emergency services through the app and added an audio recording feature riders may employ if they feel unsafe. Lyft, too, initiated over a dozen new safety features in 2019 alone.

What are the risks of ride-sharing?

Any type of vehicle transportation carries some risk. Accidents can happen even for the most cautious drivers. However, for both drivers and passengers, some risks are unique to ride-sharing.

Risks to riders include:

  • Mistaking someone else for their driver and getting in the wrong car
  • Drivers with criminal histories undetected by background checks
  • Low-rated drivers who haven’t been removed from the platform yet

Risks for drivers include:

  • Road safety and car crashes
  • Unpredictable or intoxicated passengers, especially late at night
  • Picking up a low-rated passenger because they need the income

Insurance gaps are also a risk for drivers. They may not be covered by personal car insurance if they are involved in an accident while using the rideshare app.

Rideshare drivers are considered independent contractors, and rideshare companies typically perform a background check before allowing a driver to participate in the app. However, a 2018 report found that some people who had criminal convictions were hired as rideshare drivers.

Drivers and riders are both encouraged to use caution when engaging with ride-sharing services. These tips can help ensure that rideshare participants are kept safe and not placed in uncomfortable situations.

Tips for using a rideshare service safely

Whether you’re a passenger or driver, you can keep yourself safe by speaking up if you’re uncomfortable or have questions; also, ensure that you follow the safety guidelines of the app you’re using.

Verify the Specifics of the Vehicle

After you confirm your ride through the app, make sure the car that arrives to pick you up matches the description of the ride you booked.

Check the color, make, and model of the vehicle and make sure that the license plate matches the one listed for your driver. This helps in busier cities where many cars look alike and many drivers are competing for rides.

Review the Driver Profile

Drivers for Uber and Lyft are rated on a scale of one to five, with five being the highest. When you accept a ride, the driver’s photo and rating appear. While Uber and Lyft both state that they remove low-ranking drivers from the platform, sometimes the process is delayed. It could also take time before a poor driver hits the threshold for removal. 

If something about the driver’s appearance or vehicle seems off, or if you don’t want a lower-rated driver, don’t be afraid to cancel the ride.

Confirm That You Are the Passenger

Never state your name first, as a predator could be posing as a rideshare driver. Instead, ask the driver who they’re here to pick up, so you can confirm it’s the right driver. This process helps improve driver accountability and reduces confusion for passengers.

Always Travel with a Friend

It’s always best to have the support and protection of a friend. When you’re using a ride-sharing service, try to travel with someone else. 

However, passengers often need to ride alone. In these cases, use the “share status” option in your app so that friends, family, or the people you’re meeting can track your progress. Make sure you let someone know your destination and check-in through a text or phone call once you’ve safely arrived.

Always Use Your Seatbelt

Always buckle up because even the best drivers can be involved in an accident. Just because you’re using a ride-sharing service doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take normal safety precautions. If the car doesn’t have a seat belt or if it doesn’t buckle properly, don’t be afraid to cancel the ride. 

Also, sit in the back seat and ensure that window and door safety locks are off. Don’t put yourself in a position where you could be trapped.

Follow Your Gut Instincts

It’s okay to speak up if you’re uncomfortable. If a driver seems under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or if they’re taking a strange and unsafe route, speak up. It is not okay for the driver to drive erratically or make inappropriate comments. 

You can say something like, “I’ve changed my mind, and I’d like to be let out here.” If you feel uncomfortable doing so, contact the rideshare company directly and report the incident.

Contact the Police

If you fear for your personal safety or the safety of a fellow passenger, call 911 immediately. In extreme situations, you need to take steps to protect yourself. 

Riders should also report any unsafe or harassing behavior to the ride-sharing company and the police. The company will review your claim and decide whether to remove the driver from the platform.

Safety tips for drivers

Drivers, too, may be subject to harassment, abuse, or assault from their passengers. Some safety tips for passengers also apply to drivers, especially when it comes to trusting your instincts. Other ways drivers can stay safe include:

Planning Ahead and Screening Passengers

Prepare for potential scenarios and plan how you will handle a difficult or unruly passenger. You can also protect yourself by declining a fare from a low-ranking passenger. Both Uber and Lyft allow drivers to see passenger ratings before they decide to book the trip. Some rideshare drivers suggest not taking passengers rated below 4.6.

Providing Ratings and Feedback

If you have a passenger who makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, then give them a low rating. This can help other drivers avoid a potentially unsafe fare. If the situation is especially bad, contact your ride-sharing company to report it.

Listening to Your Instincts

Pay attention to how your passengers are acting. If their behavior seems suspicious or you hear worrisome comments, then pull over to a safe, populated location and end the ride.

Using a Rideshare Service Safely

Being aware of the risks for both drivers and passengers of ride-sharing services can help reduce your chances of harassment or assault. Rideshare companies have millions of successful trips each year, and services like Uber and Lyft can be a safe mode of transportation. However, as the reports from Uber and Lyft show, sexual assault and harrasment are still an ongoing issue. These companies need to implement more safety protocols, such as mandated video cameras, to protect passengers and drivers. 

Following the safety guidelines when using ride-sharing services will help ensure that you do not end up in a vulnerable situation. Speak up when you’re uncomfortable, and don’t be afraid to contact the authorities if something seems off. Above all, always trust your instincts and take whatever steps you feel are necessary to keep yourself safe.