The news is currently trending about a student from South Carolina who accidentally got into the wrong car, thinking it was her Uber ride, ending up in the hands of a kidnapper and resulting in her murder.
It’s a tragic tale, and now some are blaming victim, deeming her careless for getting into the wrong car. But instead of placing blame on what looks like an honest mistake or lack of judgement, perhaps it’s worth taking a refresher course on how to be safe when using a ride-hailing app.
In recent years, ride-hailing apps like Uber, Grab and Lyft have become the public transport of choice for many people.
In some cities, their fares are lower than taxis, so students prefer to use them. An easy-to-use app that tells you all the relevant information about the driver makes it even more convenient.
For most apps, riders can rate or review drivers, an effort by the company to make sure only the most reliable drivers are on the platform.
But we can’t forget that they are still modes of public transport and we are essentially getting in the car with a stranger every time we take an Uber.
Keeping yourself safe is a must when using any kind of public transport. Here are some tips to remember when using a ride-hailing app like Uber.
Always check the driver’s information
In busy cities and drop-off locations, getting into the wrong car or Uber can easily happen. Don’t just take note of the car model, also look at the driver’s photo, name and license plate number.
When they arrive, double check the number and just to be safe, you can also ask them if they are an Uber or Lyft when you get in the car.
Whenever possible, wait inside in a safe location (cafe, restaurant, lobby, etc) until your Uber has arrived. You can check the app to see whether the driver is outside or nearby if you’re worried about keeping your driver waiting.
This makes you less vulnerable to potential kidnappers, snatch thieves, robbers, or anyone else with bad intentions who might be targeting people on the street.
Watch out for warning signs
Many Uber drivers are chatty, and some just like to pass the time by striking up a casual conversation.
It might be perfectly innocent, but always be vigilant if a driver tries to ask you for personal information or starts to act inappropriately.
Don’t give your personal details away and keep yourself guarded. You can still be friendly without opening up too much.
If you suspect something is amiss, try messaging or calling someone close to you, or dial 911 (or another police hotline) if it’s an emergency.
Let your loved ones know where you are
There is typically a function where you can send your ETA or ride information in the ride-hailing app. Use it! As soon as you’ve booked your ride, send it to your roommate, friend or family member.
If there isn’t a function, send them the license plate number and driver’s name at least. In the case of an emergency, at least they know where you are and who your driver is.
Don’t travel alone
Of course, this can’t always be helped. But if it’s a late night out and/or an unsafe area, and you would feel safer travelling with your friends, then do so. Book an Uber together and split the cost later instead of taking individual rides.
When it comes to your personal safety, it’s always better to err on the side of caution rather than taking a risk.
Sit in the backseat
Whenever possible, avoid sitting in the passenger seat. If anything inappropriate happens, your driver will find it more difficult to touch or attack you if you’re in the backseat.
It would also be easier to get out of the car hastily if you’re seated at the back.
Take note of where you’re going
After a long day or night, it can be tempting to zone out and scroll through Instagram while leaving it up to your driver to take you where you need to be.
To avoid anything untoward happening, stay alert of the routes your driver is taking, especially if it’s to an unfamiliar location.
If you suspect he is going a different way, don’t hesitate to speak up and ask where he’s going.
Report and review
Most ride-hailing apps allow riders to report bad drivers or any inappropriate incidents. If you think your driver was acting strangely, be sure to let the company know.
As stated on Uber’s website, “Our 24/7 global support team reviews feedback and will follow up with appropriate action on any reports of conduct that violate our community guidelines.”
You could be saving someone else’s life or at least, allowing others to avoid taking an unpleasant trip. Always review your drivers as well, and remember to give props to the those who were professional and courteous!