Ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft have become popular in recent years, and for good reason; the ability to hail a ride at the push of a button and have it come right to your location has revolutionized transportation for many individuals.
The affordable fare of ride-hailing services allows people to travel while a car is in the shop, allowing for a ride home after a night out on the town, or even to dodge the hefty costs of owning a car in the first place.
However, just because rideshare services are convenient and affordable doesn’t mean they should be used without care. Here are a few of the most important safety tips to keep in mind the next time you hail a ride.
Confirm the Driver and Car
One of the simplest things you can do to stay safe while using a rideshare service is to confirm the driver and the car. Both Uber and Lyft have strict requirements that their drivers must meet, such as passing a driving history and criminal background check and ensuring that the driver’s car is registered, insured, and meets minimum quality standards.
When you order your ride, you should be able to see the name of the driver and some basic information about their vehicle. When it arrives, make sure that both meet the description. If either of them doesn’t fit the bill, don’t hesitate to pass on the ride.
Verify the Driver’s Rating
Both of the most popular rideshare companies (Uber and Lyft) use five-star rating systems to determine the quality of each driver. Anything above a four-star rating typically indicates quality service. If you find a driver with one or two stars, you may want to consider canceling your ride and requesting a new driver.
Never Give Cash
While some riders choose to tip their drivers with cash on a voluntary basis, if a driver ever directly requests cash, that should be an immediate red flag that something is amiss. If you find yourself in this scenario, it’s best to avoid the ride entirely.
Wait for Your Ride in a Safe Place
Make sure to wait for your ride in a safe place. Consider finding:
- A well-lit area such as the outdoors or, if it’s nighttime, a street light.
- An area with multiple people.
- A spot with security or surveillance cameras, such as a store.
- A familiar location that you’re comfortable with.
By looking for a safe place, you can ensure that your activities are well-observed. This can help you avoid any trouble either from a driver or others around you while you wait for your ride to arrive.
Ask “What’s My Name?”
The #Whatsmyname Foundation was established after Samantha Josephson was kidnapped by a fake Uber Driver and murdered. The organization’s educational emphasis focuses on teaching rideshare users to ask a driver to identify who they are before they get into a car.
If the driver knows your name, you should be safe. However, if a driver is unable to locate your name on their own in the app, don’t enter the vehicle.
Refrain From Riding Alone
If you’re leery about using a rideshare service alone, you can both set your mind at ease and save some money by using UberPool or Lyft Shared.
This allows you to split the fare of a ride with a fellow rider, and also puts another body in the car alongside you. Be aware, though, this could increase the amount of time it takes to complete your ride.
Utilize Trip-Sharing Features
When you hail a ride, consider using the trip-sharing feature to let a trusted person follow your trip.
For example, Uber offers the “Follow My Ride” feature to enable you to share your location with someone else. You can also use a third-party app like Google Maps to share your location with others.
Look Into Personal Security Technology
If you want to take your safety further into your own hands, you can bring along a personal safety device such as pepper spray or mace.
In addition, you can download personal safety apps on your phone, such as Kitestring, which will communicate with you and alert a family member or friend if you don’t respond.
Inform the Driver That the Trip Is Being Tracked
If you already started your ride, and you’re feeling wary about the driver, you can still take steps to secure your safety. You can respectfully let your driver know that the trip is being tracked.
Choose Your Seat Wisely
It’s always important to consider where you sit when riding. Look for a seat that is near an exit. Back seats are typically safest, as they offer access to two exit points and put more distance between you and the driver. Consider each car and situation and make the wisest choice possible.
Follow the Rules of the Road
It’s important to remember that safety extends beyond the threat of a fake driver. Driving, in general, is a dangerous activity, and it’s important that a rider allows the driver to focus on basic road safety.
Distracted driving is one of the top reasons for car accidents. Avoid distracting the driver and, if you see them trying to use their smartphone or tablet (apart from using the GPS) while driving, make sure to give them a lower rating and mention the reason.
Do Not Share Personal Information
While it can be fun to chat with an Uber or a Lyft driver, it’s always important to keep any personal information out of the conversation.
For instance, if you’re heading home, there’s no reason to inform a driver that it is where you live. In fact, if you want to be extra careful, you can get out by the curb, let them drive away, and then go inside your residence.
Trust Your Gut
At the end of the day, sometimes your instincts are the most important indicator of how safe a ride is. If you feel:
- Uncomfortable with the condition of the car;
- Wary about a driver’s behavior;
- Nervous about the questions they are asking you;
Or any other “gut instinct” feeling, it’s never a problem to pull the plug on the entire scenario.
Rate Your Trip
It’s also a good idea to maintain a “pay it forward” attitude. Make sure to rate each trip so that other riders that follow will have more information to help inform their decisions.
Know What to Do in an Accident
Finally, it’s important to know what to do if you’re involved in an accident while using a rideshare service. Legally, the liability of the accident will fall on the driver, and both Uber and Lyft have multiple resources available.
However, as a rider, it’s most important for you to make sure that you and those in the car with you are safe and unharmed. If the accident warrants it, notify the police and paramedics as well.