There's no doubt that rideshare services like Uber and Lyft have made getting around town much easier. But with the rise in popularity of these services has come an increase in crime, as criminals see easy targets in unaware and unprepared passengers. This post contains some strategies to help you stay safe when using a rideshare service.
Rideshare services are so incredibly popular, economical, and convenient that it's likely you've used one at least one time to get to the airport or on a business trip. However, even with the companies employing layers of safety protocols, drivers and passengers face risks associated with using the services.
Are Rideshare Services Safe to Use —
The best answer is- Yes, and No. Let me explain.
Over the past few weeks, I posted the firearm policies of the two major rideshare companies, Uber and Lyft. In addition, I provided numerous links to news stories describing incidents where a driver or passenger used a firearm in their defense in those articles.
As you might guess, I am a strong proponent of a firearm as part of a comprehensive defensive mindset. We've discussed this self-defense mindset on the Concealed Carry Podcast, as well as in an article. Because you're reading this post, I'll assume that you likewise have considered tools like a handgun, knife, pepper spray, or other impact tool and if they fit into your overall strategy. Methods of using those tools are outside this particular post's scope.
As discussed in the article and podcast episode, a firearm is only one tool that fits into a self-defense strategy.
Everything we do involves a certain level of risk. Prudent plans can only minimize risk exposure. However, we can do everything right and still be caught off guard and victimized. Focusing on best practices to mitigate risk, I hope to provide you with some considerations and actions you can take as a driver or passenger using rideshare services like Uber and Lyft.
Universal Safety Strategies —
We can start with actions you likely already know or use to help understand your environment, facilitating increased response options.
Know your location/let others know –
- Remaining observant of things and people in your surroundings is fundamental. But I've included it under the heading “knowing your location” because it is part of being aware of your environment.
- Furthermore, you can't direct emergency services (or a rideshare service) to your location if you don't know where you are.
- Knowing your location or where you're going may give you information on the inherent criminal activity associated with the area.
Keep your phone charged –
- A dead phone is nearly useless, especially in an emergency. But, provided it's on, your phone is a powerful tool for you to reach help and others to find you. It may be surprising to learn that police can get authorization from providers to ping your phone's location in certain instances.
Avoid remote locations –
- Crimes routinely take place in the view of others, so a crowd doesn't automatically equal safety. However, if you're a driver called to a remote location for a pickup, you should consider passing on the fair, especially at odd times at night. For passengers, or in general, staying in a public place with others reduces the likelihood of being victims of a crime of opportunity.
Strategies Unique to Rideshare Drivers —
In addition to the basics, if you're a driver of a rideshare service, consider the following pointers. Also, consider the companies stance on drivers carrying firearms or other “weapons”. You make the call if you're willing to disarm or not. There are always other employers, there is only one you.
Learn the area –
- Try to research the areas you will pick up and drop people off. Understand crime trends and safe places you can park in between pickups.
Refuse pickups in “shady,” remote locations –
- If you decline a pickup, you may pass up some money, but avoiding a potential negative outcome is always worth it.
In between fairs –
- Find places to park and wait that are well lit and provide visibility around your vehicle.
- Remain alert and continually visually scan the area around your car.
- Keep the doors locked and the radio low so you can hear outside noises.
- Keep the interior lights off as much as possible at night. Not only can it make it difficult to see things outside the vehicle, but it spotlights you and the fact that you are alone.
Before allowing them into the vehicle –
- Confirm they are the person who requested the ride. You should have their name before arriving. Instead of asking, “are you Joe?” consider instead, “can I get your name so I can make sure I don't pick up the wrong person?”
- Pay attention to what the people may or may not have with them. For example, if they are going to the airport and don't have a bag, your suspicions should heighten.
- Consider if you want to pick up drunk passengers. Of course, we don't want drunk drivers on the roads and prefer they call a car to pick them up. But be aware that drunks can be volatile, unpredictable, and obnoxious, or they might just puke in your car—either way, not a good time.
- Engaging in a brief conversation before allowing them into the vehicle gives you a “first-read” on them.
Pay attention to passengers –
- Your focus is on driving, but don't neglect to pay attention to what the passengers are doing.
- Be cautious of diverting a route for a quick stop before going to the destination. Sometimes it makes sense, and sometimes it may be to get you to an unsafe location.
- Engage in small talk. Not only can it be an interesting way to learn what different people have on their minds, but it is also an excellent way to read people.
- Always attempt to de-escalate a situation. For example, instead of screaming at someone and saying, “I'm going to kick you out of my vehicle!” first drive to a public location, park, turn off the vehicle and take the keys, get out and then tell them you want them out of your car.
Strategies Unique to Rideshare Passengers —
In addition to the basics, here are things you can do specifically as a rideshare service passenger.
Scheduling and first contact –
- Make sure the car and the license plate of the vehicle picking you up to match what the service told you.
- Schedule a pickup in a public place.
- If possible and if applicable, consider requesting the driver come inside the public place to meet you when they arrive.
- If something doesn't seem right, refuse to get in.
- Sit in the back if possible. The back passenger seat gives you a position of advantage and the best view of what the driver is doing with their hands if they aren't on the wheel.
- Consider checking if the child lock on the back door is engaged. The child lock is a small toggle that disables opening the door from the inside.
- Pay attention to where the driver is taking you.
- Especially if you're in an unfamiliar area, map the route on your phone. Use something like Google Maps, Waze, or Apple Maps. Follow along, and if the driver takes you in the opposite direction, you'll know.
- The apps for both Lyft and Uber have a built-in feature that allows you to discreetly contact 911 and provides law enforcement with things like vehicle information and location.
Wrapping Up —
I hope this provides you with some ideas to help keep you safer the next time you use a rideshare service.
Share your story of nightmare rideshare experiences or things you do to stay alert that I may have overlooked.
If you want to know more about Lyft and Uber's gun policies, follow the links below.
- Jan 6, 2022 : Philly Lyft driver uses gun to defend self, passenger from armed carjacker
- Feb 25, 2021 : Crime Stoppers Crime of the Week: Milwaukee Lyft driver armed with gun saves himself from carjacking
- Jan 31, 2020 : Lyft Driver Defends Himself With A Gun And May Lose His Job Because Of It
- Uber driver, licensed to carry gun, shoots gunman in Logan Square
- Uber driver shoots and kills robber along causeway near Aventura Mall
- Local Uber driver says rider held a gun to his head during apparent “hate crime”
- Uber Driver Fired After Tussle With Passenger Leads to Gunfire
- Man shot during Uber ride in Clearwater
- Bellman accidentally shot as Uber driver defends himself from carjacker
- Uber Eats driver shoots man during attempted robbery at IHOP, Memphis police say
- Atlanta ride share driver shoots alleged police impersonator making phony traffic in Target parking lot