Hailing rideshares as a means of getting to where people need or want to go has become increasingly popular in cities across the U.S., including Los Angeles. Rideshares are more convenient than taxis and often cost less per ride. Taking a rideshare with Uber or Lyft is also a safe choice after you have spent the night out with friends and are impaired and unable to drive. With rising gas prices, many people have also turned to rideshares for transportation instead of spending higher fuel prices. While rideshares offer multiple benefits, There are still some reasons why it’s important to minimize your risks and stay safe whenever you choose to hail a rideshare instead of driving yourself.
Uber and Lyft drivers in the U.S. complete millions of rides every year. As of 2022, Zippia reports that Uber averaged 14 million trips per day worldwide or 5 billion per year. An estimated 36% of Americans have used rideshare services. Most trips taken by rideshare are uneventful, but there have been some incidents in which people have been hurt or killed.
Uber has released two safety reports, with the first covering 2017 to 2018 and the second covering 2019 to 2020. In the second safety report, Uber reported there were 59 Uber-related fatalities in car accidents and 42 in 2020 in the U.S. Out of those who were killed in 2019, 68% were occupants in the Uber vehicle. In 2020, 74% of those who were killed were Uber passengers. Uber also reported there were nine fatal physical assaults in 2019 and 11 in 2020. Out of those who were killed in a physical assault, 75% were Uber passengers. However, in 80% of those cases, the accused who committed the assault was either another passenger or a third party other than the Uber driver. Uber also reported that there were 5,981 sexual assaults during Uber rides from 2017 to 2018, which decreased to 3,824 from 2019 to 2020.
Both Lyft and Uber have created safety programs to address issues with safety during rideshare trips. The companies share information about drivers they have released because of assaults or arrests. Both companies also have several safety protocols they have initiated through their apps. However, it’s still important for riders to understand how to take appropriate precautions when using either of these rideshare services. Below are some of the risks involved with using rideshare apps and some steps to take to minimize your risks.
1. Getting Into the Wrong Vehicle
Getting into the wrong vehicle after mistaking it for your Uber or Lyft vehicle is a real danger for people who use rideshare apps. In March 2019, a South Carolina college student got into a vehicle that looked like the Uber car she had ordered, but it was not the correct one. She was unable to get out of the car because the driver engaged the child locks in the backseat. The male driver subsequently assaulted and murdered her, stabbing her a reported 120 times.
To prevent getting into the wrong vehicle by mistake, there are a couple of steps you should take. First, the app will include a picture of the vehicle and its license plate. Before you get into a car, check to make sure that it is the same license plate. You should also look at the driver to see if they match the driver’s photograph in the app. Finally, ask the driver for the first name of the person they are scheduled to pick up before you get in. Don’t give them your name before they tell you they are there to get you instead of someone with a different name.
2. Riding With an Unsafe Driver
Just like with other motorists, some rideshare drivers are unsafe and take risks when they drive. However, you can reduce your risk of being transported by a bad driver by checking the driver in the app before you accept a ride. You can look at a driver’s profile when you order a ride and look at the rating. Rideshare drivers are rated on a scale of one to five. If you see that a potential driver has a low rating, don’t accept the ride and wait for a different driver. You might also have the opportunity to read reviews of the driver written by others. Checking to make sure a driver has good reviews and a good rating can help to minimize the risk that your driver is unsafe.
3. Driver Will Know How to Find You
Another risk some people face when they rely on rideshare apps for transportation is that they will give up personal information to strangers to get rides. When you hail a ride through the platform, you will have to provide your first name and an address to be picked up and where you want to be dropped off at.
In one case in June 2022, a young woman hailed an Uber to get a COVID vaccination. Since the vaccination site was far from her home, she called an Uber to pick her up. The driver told her there weren’t many Uber drivers in the area and suggested she give him her phone number so he could also transport her home. She did but felt uneasy. Two weeks later, she had to call the police when the Uber driver showed up at her house.
To avoid this danger, take the following steps:
- Don’t ask to be picked up or dropped off at your house. Instead, schedule pickups and dropoffs at a nearby business such as a gas station.
- Don’t give a rideshare driver your address, last name, phone number, or other personal details so they can’t search for and find you online or in the real world.
- While you can have a conversation with your Uber driver, leave out personal details.
4. Being Involved in a Motor Vehicle Accident
As a passenger in a Lyft or Uber, you have no control over the vehicle and can’t prevent an accident. Some rideshare vehicles are involved in accidents every year, and these can be caused by the rideshare driver or another motorist.
To reduce your risks of injury in a possible rideshare accident, always use a seatbelt. All uber and Lyft cars are required to have a minimum of five functional seat belts. Click yours on as soon as you get in the vehicle. If you find that the seatbelt is not working, tell the driver you need to sit in a different spot or cancel the ride. You should report a malfunctioning seatbelt to the rideshare company so that someone else is also not placed at risk.
If you are injured in a rideshare accident, Los Angeles Lyft accident attorney Steven M. Sweat recommends you do the following things:
- Call 911 to report the accident.
- Check for injuries.
- Get the names, contact information, and insurance information of both involved drivers.
- Use your smartphone to take photographs of the damage to all vehicles and their positions.
- Take pictures of any details that you think might be relevant from the accident scene (debris, tire skid marks, nearby intersection, traffic control devices, etc.)
- Tell the police exactly what you remember just before and during the accident.
- Get checked out by a doctor immediately.
- Talk to a lawyer for help with filing an injury claim.
- Report the accident to the rideshare company.
5. Being Kidnapped
Whenever you are riding in a car with a stranger, there is a danger that the driver won’t let you get out of the car at your destination or will take you somewhere else against your will altogether. In April 2022, a 19-year-old woman in Massachusetts was kidnapped by an Uber driver who refused to take her to her destination. She managed to jump out of the car and call the police when the driver was forced to slow down because of traffic congestion.
To reduce your risk of this occurring, take the following steps:
- Tell friends and family the time you are picked up, the route you will take, and the time you should reach your destination before you get into the vehicle.
- Always sit in the backseat next to a door so that you can get out quickly if necessary.
- Call 911 or press the emergency button on your phone if your rideshare driver is taking a different route than what is necessary to reach your destination or refuses to let you out of the vehicle.
6. Being the Victim of Assault
It is always uncomfortable for people to be alone in a vehicle with a stranger because they don’t know what the other person’s intentions might be. Unfortunately, physical and sexual assaults have both been reported by passengers taking rideshares. To reduce your risks of assault, take the following steps:
- Sit in the back seat away from the driver.
- Don’t give personal information to the driver.
- Avoid getting into a verbal altercation with the driver.
- Don’t get into a vehicle if you sense potential danger.
- Carry pepper spray with you.
- Let friends and loved ones know you are taking a rideshare and when you should arrive. Check in with them at the start of your trip and its end.
- Ask the driver to let you out earlier if you feel unsafe.
Trust your gut. If a driver appears to be under the influence, don’t get into the vehicle and call the rideshare company to report it. If you are already taking a ride when the driver starts making inappropriate comments or asking for personal information, tell the driver to stop the vehicle and let you out. If you are in danger, call 911 immediately.
Stay Safe By Following These Tips
While it’s not possible to guarantee your safety whenever you take an Uber or Lyft, you can reduce your risks of injury by following these tips. While rideshare companies perform background checks on prospective drivers, dangerous people sometimes slip through the cracks. Keep aware of your surroundings and take steps to protect yourself whenever you order a ride from Uber or Lyft.