Many people rely on rideshare companies such as Uber and Lyft for transportation, or earning money to put food on the table. Jumping in a vehicle driven by a complete stranger comes with obvious safety considerations for the passenger. And the driver is at major risk of being robbed or carjacked by the stranger he just picked up.
It's hard to ignore the many news reports of criminal acts involving rideshare passengers and drivers. For that reason, we've published content addressing the security concerns surrounding rideshare companies.
Lyft and Uber Rideshare Safety Strategies—
Naturally, we started with breaking down the firearm policies of Lyft and Uber. If you're using one of these services as a driver or passenger, it's helpful to know the policy. If you decide to follow the policy, or select a company that doesn't hate the Second Amendment is a different topic, but regardless, you should know their policy.
We put together this post that provided some basic strategies for drivers and passengers to stay safe during the commute.
But are there things to do to mitigate some of the inherent risks of using rideshares before your Lyft or Uber driver even shows up? The answer is yes, most definitely.
Rideshare Driver Safety—
One reason criminals target Uber and Lyft drivers is because rideshare drivers must pick up people in unfamiliar locations. Their little Uber or Lyft signs on display identify them to patrons and criminals. Criminals know the driver doesn't know the person he/she is picking up, so it does not alarm them when a stranger approaches them. Plus, both companies have policies against their drivers or passengers carrying firearms, so there is a good chance the criminal will be the only one armed with a weapon.
My suggestion for rideshare drivers is to approach every pickup cautiously. Not just remote or unpopulated areas, but every pickup, even the ones out in front of a home address. It doesn't take a criminal mastermind to input a random home address into the app instead of “a dark, back-alley” to put the driver at ease. Scan the area as you approach and pay attention to blind spots, dark areas, and anyone standing nearby. Consider stopping a little distance from where someone would assume you would stop for the pickup and make the fair come to you.
For example, don't pull into a private driveway if you have any sense that something is off. Consider where you stop your vehicle, and try to leave a forward path of escape should you have to hit the gas and take off. Depending on the circumstances, you may want to turn off the ignition and exit before the fair reaches, instead of sitting inside the car. You might have a better view of your surroundings and anyone approaching, as well as added mobility, should things go downhill.
At night, consider keeping the interior lights off as you get close to the pickup location. Interior lights provide a clear view inside and allow a criminal to begin sizing you up. Plus, it kills your night vision and makes it difficult to see anything outside your car.
Oh yeah, and consider carrying a concealed handgun, and not leaving it in a center console or glove box.
Rideshare Passenger Safety—
What many people may not think about is that as much as these drivers stand out in a line of cars, the people waiting for them also stand out in a crowd. They are the ones looking at their phone for a message from the driver and then looking intently at the cars pulling up to see if it’s their ride.
Consider that drivers are inside a car, which offers them some protection, and an ability to speed away from a car jacker. Those standing on the street waiting can't get away as quickly.
Criminals know that if someone is waiting for a rideshare vehicle, they may not be familiar with the area, they may be alone or maybe waiting for a ride because they're intoxicated. Any of these factors makes someone an easier target. Awareness is just as important, and I would argue more important than a sub second draw.
A False Sense of Security—
Lyft and Uber claim they care about the passenger's safety. I personally believe this has more to do with reducing the company's liability and not actual safety based on their firearms policy. Anyway, much of the focus from Lyft and Uber is to make sure people get in the correct car and one of their drivers doesn't victimize a customer like the Samantha Josephson murder.
Their app focuses on getting you into the correct car but does not remind you to be safe while waiting for the car.
Take, for example, this assault that happened in Cincinnati recently where people were waiting for an Uber when a group of eleven people came up and assaulted them. Eleven on two are pretty bad odds in any fight and Uber/Lyft’s policy would disarm you. Keep in mind that this incident went down within feet of a very busy entertainment district and within a couple hundred feet of a police substation. Neither of which deterred the violent attack. However, I'm guessing an armed victim would have been more persuasive.
Further Lessons and Takeaways—
Some lessons to take away from reading these news stories;
Practice situational awareness. Watch the cars that are pulling up, but also watch what the surrounding people are doing. If something makes you uncomfortable, then you need to get out of there immediately.
Wait for your ride in a safe area. This could be inside an establishment with friends or some place where you can watch the people in front of you and not have to worry about someone coming up from behind. That’s why the apps allow the driver to text or call you so they can tell you when they arrive. Paying the extra minute or two for you to walk out from the establishment is a small price to pay for your safety.
Avoid being out late at night, in high-crime areas, or areas where there are a lot of bars and nightclubs. Crazy things happen the later it gets. Enjoy yourself, but keep this in mind when going out with your friends.
Know The Law—
Consider choosing a ride share service or entertainment locations that restrict your ability to defend yourself. State laws vary on the legal implications of ignoring “no gun” signs posted in private businesses. In some states, it could mean a misdemeanor arrest, in others nothing at all. In some states there are felony charges for carrying a gun in an establishment that serves alcohol, and other it is not an issue.
Here is a perfect time to remind you about the best legal resource that you can use to determine any state's firearm laws, and much, much more. Our App called Concealed Carry Gun Tools provides legal information for every state and DC.
Expand your Options—
Expand your skill set and learn some verbal and hand to hand skills that give you options to avoid or survive a violent encounter. Recently Steve Moses and I discussed this topic on my podcast called The Firearm Trainers Podcast. He explained the curriculum of his de-escalation and social-skills class he taught last year at the Guardian Conference. Along with other expert instructors, Steve will teach his class again this year at the conference. I was there last year, and it is well worth it.
Practice what the drivers for Uber, Lyft, and pizza delivery do. If something does not feel right, leave the area and then have them meet you in some place that is well lit with lots of people around.
You and your family's safety may depend upon your decision on how you wait for an Uber/Lyft.
List of Assaults of Rideshare Drivers and Passengers—
In addition to the resources listed in the body of this post, Ill provide you with this link to a post from a company called Atchison Transport Services (ATS). The post contains an exceptionally long list of documented assaults of rideshare passengers and drivers. Stay safe.