Are You Riding With A Stranger Tonight?

Many of us have been there, or know a friend who has climbed into an Uber or Lyft, to catch a “safe” ride home. It’s convenient and I am sure saves lives by taking intoxicated people out from behind the wheel. But are we too trusting?

What are we taught as children? Don’t talk to strangers. Yet we willingly climb into a car with a person we’ve likely never met, and have them drive us around without a lot of thought. Would we do this anywhere else or under other circumstances? Am I saying don’t use the applications? No! They are, in fact providing a necessary service, and are, for the most part, safe. But not always.

Convenience often means giving up security. It applies to ride-sharing in the same way it applies to web-based security cameras or digital locks for your doors. You wire your home with cameras and use a web-based program. While I am certain good security companies work to protect your video-feed from hacking, by merely being out there in the digital arena, you are increasing your risk of a hack. To what degree depends on which camera or company you chose. The same applies to ride-sharing.

Uber has released a report regarding the numbers of crimes committed by or against drivers and passengers. These include everything from groping to flat-out kidnapping. In my day-job, most sexual assault victims I’ve spoken with associated with a ride-share experience reported being alone, being too intoxicated to consent, and not being in control of where they went, where they stopped. This person has complete control of your well-being for the time you’re in their vehicle.

Your question is, “What do I do then?” There is some good news from Uber and Lyft on this front. Uber’s recent safety report revealed over 3,000 sexual assaults were reported in 2018 and just under 3000 in 2017. With riders and drivers reporting crimes against them, the applications for these companies are adding features like in-ride 9-1-1 calling, audio recording of what happens during the ride, location sharing, and a feature which alerts Uber of suspicious activity if the ride veers off course. Both applications are working to improve safety overall.

Regardless of what each ride share company does independently to address safety issues, you can take steps to decrease your own risk.

1. Step one is to plan ahead and ride as a group or pair if at all possible. The same rules that apply to walking alone at night apply to riding alone with a stranger.

2. Don’t toss your drunken friend in a car when they’re unable to defend themselves. It might all be fine. Then again, it might not. Again plan ahead.

3. If you’re sober and alone and need a ride, there are things you can do in the car. The first is be CERTAIN the car you’re getting into is your ride. Both applications have provide the driver name and license plate. Confirm before you get in.

4. Share your location whether the app provides it or not. Both Uber and Lyft offer this feature, and you can do this with Google Maps, Facebook, and several other apps on your phone. I’ve included two links below for more location sharing options.

5. Consider not getting out at your own address. If you are riding alone, consider catching the ride from a corner near your home instead. The same applies to going home, unless it is safer in general to be dropped at home due to the neighborhood.

6. Stay out of your phone but do keep the app open so you can use the safety features. Pay attention to where you’re going and what’s happening

7. Don’t take alcohol or other substances from your driver. Again, they are a stranger offering you a drink they have poured. Would you accept it elsewhere? Yes, this is a thing.

8. Talking to your driver is completely fine, but limit how much you share about your personal plans or other private information.

10. Familiarize yourself with the application for whichever ride service you’re hailing. Try the features (such as location sharing) whenever you ride.

9. Sit in the backseat. This is more about surviving a crash than anything else. Your chances are better in the back seat.

10. Practice with location-sharing on different applications. Learn the application features fo and whichever service you are hailing.

Finally, have a safe 2020 and beyond! A general rule in any emergency is call 9-1-1 first, before calling friends and family so officers can start working their way towards you. Be sure they’re coming before you call others for help.

Here are the links as promised.