By Jamie Ridenhour

We were all admonished as children to never get in a stranger’s car, but that is exactly what we do when we hail a ride from a rideshare provider. Overall, rides provided by private individuals are fairly safe, but there have been instances of violence, sexual assault, and theft. A few rideshare safety tips can help to ensure that your next rideshare experience is a good one.

The rideshare concept is built around the app that is used to request a ride and it is a great place to start the safety discussion. Rideshare providers such as Uber and Lyft have incorporated safety measures into their apps. In the Account section of the Uber app, for instance, there is a Safety Checkup option. The checkup includes Trusted Contacts, Ride Check, and PIN Verification options.

Trusted Contacts allows you to add up to five contacts that can be notified of your location while on an Uber trip. Contacts can also be immediately notified if you find yourself in a sketchy situation. These contacts can be set up at any time and it’s a very good idea to take a moment to do it now rather than waiting until your next trip. You can also set an emergency contact that will be notified if Uber can’t reach you in the event of an emergency.

Ride Check is a more proactive feature introduced by Uber. Since rides are tracked by GPS, it is possible for the Uber system to identify when a ride has stopped unexpectedly or has gone off course. These events could indicate an accident or potentially dangerous situation and Uber can contact the driver and passenger to see if everything is okay. A single button press lets them know that things are fine or that something is wrong.

Verification of your driver and ride are perhaps the most important consideration when using a rideshare service. A rideshare car will look like any other car, making the threat of being deceived by an imposter with bad intentions a possibility. Fortunately, there are a few simple ways to make sure that doesn’t happen.

PIN verification is a valuable tool that allows you to verify your ride with a unique PIN. After the option is enabled, each ride will get a unique PIN that the rider must share with the driver for the trip to start. It’s a great way to verify that your driver is the one that should be picking you up and not someone posing as a driver.

Rideshare apps provide riders with the vehicle make and model, license plate, and driver name prior to arrival. Riders should always make sure to verify all three of these before getting in the vehicle. In addition, asking the driver, “what’s my name,” can provide additional verification that the driver is the one you are expecting. If any of these things don’t match up, don’t get in!

Before getting a ride, make sure your phone is charged and that you have valuables securely stowed in a pocket or purse. Try to consolidate any baggage as much as possible to make it easier to avoid leaving something behind. Checking the ratings on available drivers will help you avoid a bad one. Wait for your ride indoors – standing on the curb with your eyes on your phone may make you an easy target for criminals. Riding with a friend is another way to avoid potential dangers.

Limit what personal information you share with the driver. It’s a good idea to remove your photo from the rideshare app and unlink it from any social media accounts. Don’t provide any additional personal information to the driver; what’s included in the app is enough. Make the pickup or drop-off spot a few doors away from your home to avoid sharing your address.

While fairly rare, an interaction with a stranger in a closed space can sometimes be uncomfortable, and rideshares are no exception. If a driver is initiating awkward or unwanted conversation, try to politely dissuade them from it. Mentioning that you are trying to concentrate on what you’re reading or texting a friend and asking them to call you are good options.

While the probability of an incident involving a rideshare is relatively low, a few simple safety habits can lower the risk and ease your mind. We hope you can use these tips to make yourself a safer rider.