In many ways, rideshare services like Uber and Lyft help make our communities safer by giving people options to drinking and driving. Studies by U.C. Davis found that arrests had declined by 32 percent in San Diego, 28 percent in San Jose, 26 percent in Sacramento and 14 percent in both Los Angeles and the San Francisco-Oakland area in the two years after ride sharing began in each of the areas.
While this is of course a much welcomed development, new threats have emerged in the era of ridesharing. First, injuries involving Uber and Lyft accidents are on the rise. One of the reasons for this is that California law exempts Uber and Lyft passengers from seatbelt requirement laws, and statistics show that many rideshare passengers simply don’t buckle up.
Besides Uber accidents, reports of assaults on passengers by Uber and Lyft drivers are making headlines around the country. Just this month, a rideshare driver, Octavio Alvarez Gomez, was arrested for allegedly raping a woman who hired him to take her home from a Van Nuys pub, and police think there could be more victims out there. Gomez was booked on suspicion of kidnapping with the intent to commit a sexual assault, rape, sexual penetration with a foreign object and felony sexual battery. Gomez drove for both Lyft and Uber.
In April 2018, a CNN investigation revealed that 103 Uber drivers in the United States have been accused of sexual assault or abuse. At least 31 drivers had been convicted of crimes including forcible touching and rape at the time of the article.
There are also several stories out there about imposter drivers as well. According to a story by the Today Show, fake Uber drivers are kidnapping and assaulting unsuspecting passengers.
Sometimes, it’s not even the driver that presents a danger, but just the process of hailing a driver. This month, a Bay Area father of two suffered a traumatic brain injury after being punched and knocked to the pavement after a rideshare mix up in San Francisco. The 39-year-old man was waiting for his Lyft driver when he saw a white four-door sedan approach. Thinking it was is ride, he walked over and began talking to someone inside the car and suddenly, the passenger punched him and opened the door, knocking him to the ground.
Without question, we all need to take action to protect ourselves when relying on Uber or Lyft to get from one place to the next. Here are nine steps you can take to increase your safety as a rideshare passenger:
1. Choose safe pickup and drop off locations: Aside from the risks of assaults, you can also prevent the dangers of accidents by being smart about choosing your pickup location. Your Uber app recommends nearby “Pickup spot” or multiple “Quick pickup” points. According to Uber, these suggested locations are meant to make pickups easier and faster for riders and drivers. But when choosing your own pick up location, use common sense – find spots that would not pose an accident risk. It can be tempting to “jump in” to your Uber as it pulls over in heavy traffic, but this increases the chances of a car accident while entering the Uber vehicle, and also provides you less time to verify your driver information. Also, make sure you are being dropped off in safe and permissible locations, like passenger loading zones or where there is enough space to pull over without blocking traffic. Do not let your driver pull over in a dangerous spot – insist that he or she pull over in an area that is safe.
2. Wait inside for your ride: Both Uber and Lyft apps notify you when your driver has arrived, so there is simply no need to wait in a potentially unsafe area for your driver to arrive. Stay inside your house, restaurant – wherever you are – until your app notifies you that your ride has arrived.
3. Confirm the name of the driver, the make of the vehicle, and who they are there to pick up. There have been several cases of people posing as drivers, but both Uber and Lyft offer passengers details such as the driver’s name, their photo and car type. Instead of asking drivers if they are ‘Joseph’ (or whatever the name of your driver shown on your app), ask them to tell you their names and who they are there to pick up. Make sure their name matches the name on the app. Be sure to also verify the make, model, color and license plate of the car that your app shows is supposed to pick you up. Thankfully, the State of California is also stepping in to make this process safer and easier. Governor Jerry Brown recently signed into law a bill to strengthen background checks for drivers of ride-sharing services. The bill requires all ride-share apps to provide to customers a picture of a driver, the driver’s first name and a picture of the vehicle the driver is approved to use.
4. Check the driver’s rating. Rideshare apps provide passengers with the ratings of their potential drivers, as well as the number of ratings they have received, ahead of time. If you are not comfortable with the number of rides your driver has driven or with their rating, cancel your ride and request another driver.
5. Share your trip details with friends or family. Rideshare apps allow you to notify your friends and family in your phone contacts lists about your trip. You can share your trip details, including the estimated time of arrival and specific travel route. A friend who receives the link from you can watch your car moving along on their phone’s map, and they will know when you arrive.
6. Avoid riding in the front seat. Passengers who ride up front have been on the receiving end of assaults, groping and other aggressive, unwanted behavior. Be wary of any driver who asks you to sit in the front seat.
7. Follow along in your own maps app. Have your own maps app open, enter your destination and follow along, and speak up if you notice the driver taking an odd route.
8. Travel in groups when possible. While this also cuts costs, it ensures that you’re not alone in a car with a driver you don’t know, and it’s harder for a driver to change the route if he or she is outnumbered. Try riding with a friend or two or consider using the carpool option some ride-hailing services offer (Uber Pool, Lyft Line).
9. Have a personal protection device. Pepper spray, personal alarms and tasers are all legal in California (depending on the configuration) and are convenient enough to carry on your person. Check to make sure any protection device you are considering purchasing meets the legal requirements to purchase and carry in California.
Have you or a loved one been in injured in an Uber or Lyft accident? Or assaulted by a rideshare driver? Get in touch with Pasadena Accident Attorneys, Manibog Law, today to schedule your FREE consultation with offices in Long Beach, Pasadena and West Covina. Let’s discuss how we can get you back on the road to health and well being. Call 1-800-MANIBOG.