The heartbreaking story of the South Carolina woman killed when she mistook another car for her Uber has put women’s safety in rideshare experiences at center stage. Following some key safety precautions and staying alert throughout the ride are essential to keeping both you and your friends safe in a rideshare.
Check (and double check) the car and driver
Start with the basics. Check and double check the make, model, and color of the vehicle you should be getting into, and ensure that you can identify the license plate. As an added precaution, up your game by matching the driver’s name and photo.
Furthermore, don’t let stickers and signage for these well-known brands trip you up — those are easy to procure and definitely don’t ensure that you’re jumping in the right car. While still limited in its user distribution, some riders also may be able to leverage the color matching between rider and driver as an additional level of validation in some markets. (This is wildly helpful at airports, by the way.)
Make them identify you
I’m so guilty of this one, but I generally hop in a car by saying “Here for Elle?” and they usually nod and repeat my name. Yikes. Instead, ask “What’s my name?” or “Who are you here to pick up?” Making your driver identify you first is another very important safety tip and a trending effort resulting from this recent tragedy.
Map your own route
This is especially important if you’re in a new part of town or a city you’re not familiar with. Pop into your google maps and chart out your own directions so that you’re able to have a better sense of which route you’re on, as well as major landmarks or road names along the way. That way, you have your own vetting system if you feel your route is getting too far off track and a few points of interest to tell someone where you are.
Limit personal details in chit-chat
Being in New York, I’m less likely to get a chatty uber driver, but when I travel for work I really notice the difference in how others want to work through a life story. While engaging with anyone in the car, think “pleasant not personal” and limit any info sharing around your contact information or a peek into your daily routine that could give someone too much information about where you are regularly.
Sit in the back seat
Sitting in the back seat (with your seatbelt, of course) gives you more room to maneuver if you need to quickly get out of the car. The seat behind the passenger seat is also a good one as it allows you to see your driver and have full view of what’s going on in the car (for example, if they’re texting or otherwise distracted.)
When it comes to distractions, it is important to remain alert yourself. It’s easy to zone out and dive into text or your latest podcast roster, but keeping relatively alert to your surroundings both inside and outside the car is important. Think about how easily you could get out of the vehicle if needed, and keep your phone in hand so that you could use the discreet emergency features if necessary, or to directly dial 911.
Use the notification features
Most rideshare apps have a feature built in where you can share your ride, arrival time, and car info with someone else. Using this share status option (for Uber it’s “Share ETA” and for Lyft it’s “Send ETA”), gives someone an idea of where you’re at. Think about this notification broadly. You don’t always have to share your location with someone on the other end of your ride. For example, when I’ve traveled for work and am out late or am in a new city I’m not familiar with, I share all my rides with a husband or friend, just so there’s someone tracking as I come and go if I ever feel uncomfortable.
Strategically enter and exit the vehicle
Unfortunately, bad guys have clued into the physical, behavioral habits we all have now waiting for a car. You’ve got your phone in your hand, checking the street, then checking your phone, texting, or taking a quick call. This tips someone off that you’re looking for a ride, and as you’re searching for the car it’s all that much easier to be distracted and move toward the wrong vehicle.
Even better, wait inside a lobby or nearby shop so that you have less time to draw attention. On the back end of your ride, feel free to get out of the car and wait a moment for the car to depart before moving into your home or destination.
Share your experience
Feedback is a really important part of keeping ride shares safe. If you’ve had a bad experience that left you feeling unsafe, it’s important to share that and document it through the right channels. Rideshare business models are obviously reliant on people feeling like they can safely jump in a stranger’s car, so they’re almost always very responsive to feedback on these issues. If you think about your feedback as a way to protect the next gal, you’ll be more inclined to just click that survey link or pop in the app and share your experience.
Rideshare services have become a part of our everyday lives, and for many of us, are essential to our commutes. While you shouldn’t be paranoid, a healthy dose of safety know-how can go a long way in protecting yourself.