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When Uber Becomes Dangerous: How to Rideshare Safely

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The convenience of ridesharing apps like Uber and Lyft has made it easier than ever to get from point A to point B. But just because it’s convenient doesn’t mean it’s 100% safe. If you’re not careful, your Uber ride can take a turn for the worse, and you might find yourself in a troubling situation.

Learn how to take the risks of ridesharing seriously, and which tips can help keep you safe.

The most common ridesharing apps

When you think of ridesharing, you probably think about Uber and LYFT first. While these two apps certainly dominate the ridesharing market, they’re not the only ones available for people who want to pay for a ride without using a taxi. Uber and Lyft aren’t set up for long-distance trips, for instance, and some other apps fill that need.

Popular ridesharing apps around the world are:

  • Uber
  • LYFT
  • BlaBla Car
  • Hitch
  • Wingz
  • Via
  • Bridj

What are the biggest risks to using rideshare apps?

When you take a ride with a stranger using a popular ridesharing app, what are some of the most likely things to go wrong?

  • Fake drivers: It’s not uncommon for criminals to pose as Uber or LYFT drivers and trick unsuspecting passengers into getting into the car with them. Their malicious intentions range in severity, from abducting passengers to pretending the app’s payment system doesn’t work so they can steal their money.
  • Normal vehicle safety: Maybe riders don’t think about safety because they’re in a stranger’s car, or maybe they put too much blind faith in their drivers. Whatever the reason, riders don’t always exercise the basics of vehicle safety and aren’t prepared when their driver gets into a serious accident.
  • Drivers with criminal history: Rideshare apps require background checks for their drivers, but people without a history can still have criminal intent. They have legitimate driver profiles on the app but may end up sexually abusing or assaulting their passengers.

How to rideshare safely

Most ridesharing apps have safety policies or publish tips on how to use their app safely. Read these policies before you start requesting rides:

In addition to reading the app’s safety policies, keep these general tips in mind as well:

  • Make the driver tell you your name: If they’re your driver, they should have your first name and your requested destination available on the app. Before you even open the door, ask the driver to confirm your name and destination so you know they’re legit.
  • Match the license plate number and the driver’s appearance: When the car pulls up, make sure the license plate number and car’s description match the one you see in the app. Also, get a good look at the driver to see if their appearance matches their photo on the app.
  • Avoid ridesharing alone: If you can, avoid taking an Uber or a Lyft by yourself. When there are two or more of you, it’s more likely one of you will be able to contact authorities if needed. For longer trips, between cities for example, definitely avoid going by yourself if you can help it.
  • Use other life-saving security apps: Apps like Uber and LYFT have built-in safety features, such as allowing you to share live updates of your trip with friends. Supplement these features with other safety apps, such as bSafe, Red Panic Button, or Tego. These apps can track your location and send it to friends, turn your phone into a panic button that alerts the authorities, or start clandestinely recording audio or video.
  • Sit in the back: If you have the option to, always sit in the backseat of an Uber or Lyft. You can keep a better eye on both the road and the driver this way. Plus it makes it harder for the driver to physically reach you. While you’re at it, try to sit as close to the door as possible in case you need to get out quickly.
  • Call a friend during the ride: To make yourself feel safer, call someone during the ride and let them know you’re in an Uber or LYFT. This also indicates to the driver that someone else knows where you are and that they’re tracking your ride. If you can’t reach anyone or it’s a late hour, leave yourself a voice memo and pretend you’re on a call so the driver still thinks you’re speaking with someone else.
  • Communicate via the app: Never try to communicate with your driver outside of the app. Don’t give out your phone number, email address, or any contact info other than your first name. If you need to send a message to the driver or to call them, do so through the app.

Ridesharing and COVID-19

Since 2020, ridesharing safety has included measures for COVID-19 as well. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US has guidelines for driver-for-hire services, and how both passengers and drivers should conduct themselves during a ride.

Generally, both drivers and passengers should wear face masks when inside the vehicle. Drivers should avoid picking up multiple passengers who would otherwise not be riding together on the same route as well. Both drivers and passengers should avoid touching their face, eyes, nose, or mouth throughout the ride and aim to disinfect their hands as soon as the journey is over.

Staying safe in your Rideshare

Ride-hailing apps have revolutionized mobility, allowing people to move across cities and even entire regions affordably. Ridesharing can be dangerous, however, when some people use the apps for bad intentions. By staying on your guard, you can keep away from trouble and continue to use your ridesharing app safely.

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