12 June 2019 by Eddie Sorrells, CPP, PCI, PSP

In a recent poll conducted by the Pew research group, over one third of all Americans said they have used some type of ride-sharing/ride-hailing service. This number rises dramatically in major metropolitan areas where this has become a routine means of transportation. Heading into the busy travel season of summer, many Americans will increasingly take advantage of services such as Uber and Lyft instead of rental cars and taxis.

This has also become the “go to” means of transportation for young professionals and college students alike. While ride-sharing and ride-hailing apps have many benefits in regards to convenience and cost, recent tragic events have led some to question if they also pose a risk to their personal safety. While no travel scenario is free from all risks, using some simple safety and security techniques, combined with always being aware of your surroundings, you can drastically reduce these risks.

One danger in being a frequent user of ride-sharing apps is the tendency to be lulled into complacency that causes us to ignore simple procedures that the ride-sharing companies themselves have put in place to avoid any potentially dangerous scenario.

These eight steps can help ensure that your ride is safe and enjoyable:

#1. You may know them – but do they know you?

We’ll start with the simplest, yet often overlooked step: When you open the door, ask them WHO they’re there for. If they don’t know your name, do not get in the car!

A colleague recently recounted to me an episode where he witnessed a group of young people outside a restaurant. They had been chatting about the recent headlines concerning dangers with ridesharing apps. He then witnessed the ridesharing car pull up to the restaurant. A member of the group of students opened the door looked at the driver and said, “Are you —–?” The driver replied yes and the group then quickly got into the car feeling they had done an adequate job of screening him. Obviously, anyone with a nefarious purpose would have answered “yes” to that simple question, and despite their best intentions, the young man did not accomplish his goal of verifying that the driver was legitimate. If they don’t know who YOU are, don’t get in!

#2. Plan ahead.

Before you request a ride, think about where you’re headed and review the quickest route and safety features in the app so you know how to use them.

#3. Request your ride inside.

Avoid spending unnecessary time outside alone with your phone in your hand. There have been numerous occasions where people posing as rideshare drivers will drive around popular areas, scoping out people to take advantage of. These people are usually outside, phone in hand, looking like they are waiting for their ride. Instead, wait indoors until the app shows your driver has arrived.

#4. Get in the right car.

Before you get in the car, check to make sure the license plate, driver photo, and driver name all matches what is listed in the app. Most rides can only be requested through an app, so never get in a car with a driver who claims to be with Uber or Lyft and offers a ride.

#5. Be a backseat rider – but be SURE to check the child safety lock.

If you’re riding alone, sit in the backseat. This ensures you can safely exit on either side of the vehicle to avoid moving traffic, and it gives you and your driver some personal space. But, before you enter the backseat, make sure to see if the child safety lock on the vehicle is set to unlock. If it is not, do not get in the car.

#6. Share your trip details with a friend.

While en route, tap “Share status” in your ride sharing app to share your driver’s name, photo, license plate, and location with a friend or family member.

#7. Protect your personal information.

There’s no need to share your phone number or any other contact information with your driver.

#8. Follow your intuition.

Trust your instincts and use your best judgement when using any car service. And if you ever feel you’re in an emergency situation, call 911 immediately. Recently, both Uber and Lyft have added a 911 feature that provides crucial information (such as exact location and the vehicle’s make, model and license plate information) automatically. Dialing 911 through your phone conventionally will not provide this information automatically.

This summer, follow these tips to get to where you’re going as safely as possible.