Rideshare apps such as Uber and Lyft have made travel cheap and convenient throughout the country. However, rideshare apps also pose risks to their users including identity theft, assault, rape, and car crashes.
The Dangers of Uber and Lyft
Rideshare apps have increased the frequency of car wrecks. According to research conducted in Chicago’s Stigler Center (Barrios, Hochberg & Yi, 2018), rideshare apps have led to a “2-3% increase in motor vehicle fatalities.” Researchers estimate the economic cost of these crashes range between $5.33 billion and $13.24 billion each year.
Furthermore, news stories of Uber and Lyft passengers being injured, and even killed, by their drivers have become common. One tragic example happened only a few days ago, when an Uber driver sexually assaulted a woman in Connecticut.
What’s the Difference Between Taxi and Rideshare Drivers?
The process of becoming a hail-service driver requires minimal vetting compared to becoming a taxi driver.
A taxi driver may be required to obtain a commercial driver’s license, undergo a government background check, and enter their fingerprints into a federal database. Lobbying efforts by Lyft and Uber have allowed them to forgo these requirements. Instead, both companies conduct annual background checks through a third-party company which looks for:
- Convictions of a violent crime or sexual offense, such as robbery, assault, kidnapping, arson, rape, sexual assault, homicide or child pornography.
- Presence on the National Sex Offender Regisatry list.
- DUI convictions and driving history.
- Drug convictions.
Lyft and Uber conduct these background checks using information such as a driver’s social security number, driver’s license number, and photos of their ID. This background check is done completely online, and neither company requires an in-person interview.
In a perfect world all rideshare drivers would be responsible and show respect towards their passengers, but this isn’t always the case. However, there are steps passengers can take to increase their safety when using a rideshare app.
10 Tips for Rideshare Safety
- Wait inside for your ride to arrive. Waiting inside will allow you to wait for your ride without having to be mindful of predatory strangers.
- Confirm your driver and vehicle. Rideshare apps will give you a photo and name of your driver and will also give the make, model, color and license plate of their vehicle. Drivers are given your name through the app, so always ask them who they are picking up. Do not enter a vehicle if the driver or vehicle descriptions don’t match.
- Check the driver rating. Both Uber and Lyft have rating systems for their drivers. Drivers with lower ratings are more likely to have had issues with passengers in the past. You can cancel a ride with Uber by selecting the white bar at the bottom of the screen, selecting the “cancel” option and then selecting the “yes, cancel” option. You can also cancel a ride with Lyft by selecting the “edit ride” button on the bottom left of the screen, followed by selecting the “cancel ride” option.
- Sit in the Backseat. Sitting in the backseat puts space between you and the driver. This will give you more time to exit the vehicle if your driver attempts to assault you, and also provides you with exits on either side of the vehicle.
- Always use a seatbelt. You are significantly less likely to be injured in a car wreck if you are wearing a seatbelt. You’re never completely safe from a car crash when travelling, even if your driver is alert and uses safe driving practices.
- Travel with friends. Riding with people you trust will give you support if your driver acts wrongfully, and decreases the likelihood of a driver behaving inappropriately to begin with.
- Keep others informed when you rideshare. Both Lyft and Uber have features which will send your route info to your contacts. Select the “send ETA” feature in the Lyft app, or the “send status” feature on the Uber app to send your location and route to others in real time. Calling one of your contacts while travelling in a rideshare is also an excellent way to keep someone you know informed of your progress and to discourage your driver from acting inappropriately.
- Check your route with the app’s GPS. Your app will show the route your driver will take and the estimated time of your arrival. If your driver deviates from this route, ask them why they have done so and ask to be dropped off at the nearest safe location if they do not give a reasonable response. If they refuse to drop you off, call the police.
- Don’t share private information with your driver. Rideshare apps make your information anonymous to the driver, even if you need to contact them through the app. Be mindful of what information you give out while having a conversation with your driver.
- Trust your gut. If you have a bad feeling about your driver, don’t enter their vehicle or ask to be dropped off if you’re already in transit. Your instincts are vital indicators if you’re potentially entering a dangerous situation. Stand your ground, and call the police in case of an emergency.
Help is Available
Injuries sustained from a rideshare driver due to a car crash or assault are often preventable and can cause immense physical and emotional suffering. An experienced personal injury attorney may be able to help you recover compensation for medical bills and the pain and suffering you’ve been through. Your attorney will investigate your case to prove who is at fault for your injuries, and will fight on your behalf in court if necessary to ensure you’re given the compensation you deserve.