“What’s my name?” and other ways to stay safe using Uber
Get safely from A - B by staying awake and alert every time you request a ride.
We would be surprised if there was somebody reading this who hadn’t heard at least one awful story. More specifically, an awful story about somebody catching a lift home via one of the more popular taxi apps: Uber and Lyft.
Whilst these companies have brought an exceptional opportunity to drivers and passengers alike, there is a dark side to how criminals may take advantage of vulnerable customers.
You protect yourself by being as vigilant as you can and making sure you always follow a habitual safety check before you ever step into an Uber or Lyft. Why? Here are the risks you could be facing:
- Car accidents
This may be the risk that is the least out of your control, but passengers often forget that they are still in a vulnerable vehicle. Car accidents and pedestrian accidents are possible and you need to practice your standard car safety procedures (seat belt etc.) to keep safe.
- Fake drivers
Getting into a car with a fake driver is the worst-case scenario because you immediately know that there are no good intentions. Criminals will take advantage of intoxicated, single or vulnerable passengers by pretending to be a driver and welcoming you into their car. We are going to tackle how to avoid this soon.
- Criminal drivers
Just because somebody is a verified driver, it doesn’t mean they don’t pose a risk. Drivers who are licenced under Uber or Lyft have still been known to commit violent or fraudulent crimes against passengers.
Who is at risk?
Gender-based violence in South Africa has become known as the true pandemic amongst deeply concerned citizens. Known as the rape capital of the world, South Africa ensures that women are constantly second-guessing, trusting their gut and assessing the risk of every situation they step into. Members of the LGBTQ community are also more vulnerable in these situations.
We would seriously advise any women or queer-identifying persons to take these safety measures into account.
Getting safely from A - B
You don’t need to wait out on the road whilst you call your ride. The app tracks your exact location so you only need to meet your driver once they have arrived. Stay somewhere that is well lit and where other people are around you.
We would always advise that somebody walks with you to the car and sees you off.
They must identify you, first
“What’s my name?” is the most important first question you should ask before you get into the vehicle. A verified driver will have your name on display as soon as they connect with you via the app. Stand away from the window and doors and ask the driver to verify who you are.
Verify the driver and vehicle
If they get your name right, don’t let your guard down. You need to know that the car model, licence plate match and driver's name and picture match with the car you’re getting into. All of these details will be noted in the app.
Always share your trip
On top of sharing your trip, let your driver know that the route is being tracked. Somebody who is looking to commit a crime is less likely to do so if they know people are expecting you. If you don’t want to be too upfront about it, just jump on your phone and say something along the lines of,
“Hey Dad, I’ve just gotten into my Uber from (location). I’ll be home in 20 minutes. The driver’s details are on the shared location I sent you.”
Choose your position
This is a safety precaution that will also protect you should the car be involved in an accident. The safest place in a car being driven by a stranger is behind the driver’s front seat. This gives you a good vantage point of the road and of the driver. It also allows you easy access to a door should you need to exit the vehicle.
If a driver ever seems pushy about which seat you should sit in, take that as a red flag.
Do not share personal details
A driver should never ask to be paid directly - all payments must happen via the app unless you have chosen to ride on the cash option. Your driver should never ask for your cellphone number, full name or social media handles. All communication should be done via the app.
If you are wary about drivers knowing your home address, ask to be dropped off at a nearby location if you feel safe enough to walk.
Trust your instinct
Your gut is the most trustworthy source around. When something feels off, that’s probably because it is. Forget being polite and forget about feeling embarrassed: if something is telling you to stay out of the car then you absolutely should.
We hope these tips help you to stay safe on all of your future travels.
Until next time,