Uber Safety Tips
Is Uber Safe? Uber Safety Guide
Whether you’re a driver or a passenger, when using a rideshare service, safety is always a top priority.
In terms of Uber Inc., certain safeguards are (arguably) ‘built-in’ to the rideshare company’s App. For instance, both parties are technically ensured ‘oversight’ when they use the Uber system because their identities – including full names, residencies and other associated information – are encoded within Uber’s central database of passenger, and driver, information.
But, having said all that…does that really make Uber a safe service?
Despite Uber’s assurances that Uber is an incredibly safe platform, there are still lingering concerns.
So, it’s worth asking – how can you protect yourself? Like any public service, there’s always the possibility of accidents, dangerous driving, and other safety risks…so here’s what you need to know as both a passenger and driver.
Safety, As Stated By Uber
When it comes to safety, Uber is expected to take the necessary steps to keep both their drivers and their passengers safe.
First of all, while you’re online, GPS tracking ensures that your route and location are always being tracked. This makes passengers feel safer, and for drivers (as long as they’re online) they can cancel a ride at any time. If, for whatever reason, you feel unsafe, it is your right, as a driver or passenger, to pull over at any time, and immediately end a trip. Legally, it is also worth noting: passengers AND drivers do not need to stand for any form of abuse — verbal or physical.
Of course, such events (i.e., verbal or physical abuse) inevitably happen in any industry – despite best efforts by major companies (like Uber and Lyft) to gradually reduce their incidence.
New Safety Initiatives
New driver verification processes have been put in place – whereby both riders and drivers are now required to verify their personal information when they open their initial account. This is especially comforting for passengers (as the app displays all related information when they order a ride) including the driver’s name, photo, and license plate. Before an individual becomes a driver, they must also pass a thorough background check.
And, in late 2016, Uber began instituting a ‘selfie’ safety program – whereby drivers are regularly prompted to snap a photo of their face at the beginning of each trip (*to ensure they are who they say they are).
Interestingly, Uber has even experimented with a variety of ‘holistic’ approaches to safety – for instance, in some locations, they have implemented simple distractions in the hopes that ‘toys’ may help maintain positivity when picking up rowdy drunk passengers on Friday or Saturday nights.
Uber Safety In the Headlines – Passenger and Driver Safety
Since Uber first launched (back in 2010), headlines frequently highlighted odd (and, in many cases) dangerous stories about Uber (and other ridesharing services, including Lyft).
And – although the public often hears cautionary tales geared towards passengers (including an incident where a passenger was struck by a hammer) drivers have also endured their share of verbal and physical abuse. From drunken incidents of abuse to fits of harassment and rage, the focus has mostly been on the plight of passengers. In fact (in comparison to passengers in the media) it’s arguable that the safety risk to drivers has been largely ignored.
Interestingly, this is not necessarily Uber (or Lyft’s) fault – as both companies are often not able to provide safety training programs due to federal laws, prohibiting safety training for non-commercial drivers. Indeed, since both companies have firmly stated that their drivers are independent contractors, rigorous safety training signifies otherwise. Thus, if such practices were put into place, drivers would functionally be considered full-time employees.
Obviously, this raises legal and ethical challenges for lawmakers (and rideshare companies) regarding issues of passenger and driver safety – issues which, over the past six years, have yet to be fully resolved (or even formally raised).
Safety Reports and Transparency
Although Lyft and Uber each track the number of ‘safety incidents’ reported, they have yet to share this critical information publicly
It’s worth noting, however, that some basic statistics about transportation professionals & safety are publicly known – and should be repeated and emphasized for anyone interested in becoming a rideshare driver.
Here are some crucial (and startling) facts:
- As stated by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a taxi driver is over 20 times more likely to be killed on the job in comparison to other workers. This isn’t entirely surprising, however – as drivers, including rideshare drivers – are regularly exposed to a wide range of people (without foreknowledge of their mental health, history, criminal past, or other intentions).
A 2014 report stated that of the 3,200 taxi drivers hurt or killed on the job, 5.6 percent sustained injuries caused by violence.
If you’re a driver, and have ever felt threatened by a passenger, here are some things to keep in mind:
- As a driver, you do have some control over how much risk you’re exposed to. For example, the majority of violent incidents happen in the very early hours, when individuals are drunk, intoxicated, or disoriented.
- If possible, avoid working during very early-morning hours (or attempt to drive during the hours that feel most comfortable to you. Prioritize driving in a safe neighborhood, or driving in a favored area, that you trust). Don’t compromise on safety just to make more money!
- Although local regulations vary in terms of disclosure, Uber drivers are allowed to install video cameras so that they can actively record riders. This way, drivers feel safer not only in terms of their passengers’ conduct, but also because cameras allow drivers to easily obtain critical footage (should a safety-related incident occur).
Uber Weapons Policy
Of course, in order to ensure the safety for everyone, Uber drivers are not allowed to carry firearms under any circumstances.
They can, however, carry non-lethal weapons within certain states.
This is stated within Uber’s official set of policies & driver guidelines (*however, it is NOT stated within Lyft’s terms and conditions). Non-lethal weapons theoretically include stun guns and pepper spray — items which are only to be used as a last resort in terms of self-defense.
*Again, if a driver feels the need to carry non-lethal defense mechanisms, it is highly advisable to have a camera installed for accountability (in the event a weapon is actively used).
Passenger Safety Tips
If you’re a passenger, please also remember the following safety tips:
- Request a ride indoors — in some cases, it is the general public that poses a threat (NOT your driver). If you’re waiting outside (especially if it’s dark, or if you’re alone), request your ride inside and wait indoors until it has arrived. This greatly increases your chances of staying safe!
- Double check the car — always be mindful that the car you are stepping into matches your arriving Uber driver’s model, make, and license plate number. Never get into a vehicle until you’re sure that it is your verified Uber ride!
- Wear your seatbelt — this cannot be stressed enough, as it could save your life. Just because you’re riding in an Uber or Lyft vehicle, doesn’t mean the auto-accident rate is any lower! Buckle up!
- Share your details — when you’re en-route, tap ‘share status’ so that your friends and family know your whereabouts.
Although major issues are few and far between, always trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, either as a driver or passenger, take proactive action – cancel a ride, find a new mode of transportation, or call a friend – and always do your best to avoid any potential issues.