Ride-share apps are often seen as a safer option than public transit, but they can pose their own type of threat, such as potential assault or a car crash. While Uber’s 2018 Safety Report said only 0.1 percent of passengers reported safety-related concerns, it’s still important to take precautions when using ride-share apps such as Uber or Lyft.
The Phoenix spoke with Tim Cunningham, the administrative commander of Campus Safety, Loyola’s private police force, about what the department recommends for staying safe.
What is the best way to request a ride-share?
Students should have the rideshare pick them up and drop them off in well-lit places and travel in groups whenever possible, Cunningham wrote in an email to The Phoenix.
Both Uber and Lyft’s websites recommend ordering a ride indoors. This reduces the time “standing outside by yourself with your phone in your hand,” according to Uber’s website. This can make you more prone to getting robbed or have someone see you and attempt to impersonate your driver.
What should I do when the driver arrives?
When the driver arrives, you should check the license plate, car make and model, and the driver’s picture to match the information about the ride on the app, according to Uber. Cunningham also wrote that you should never give your name to the driver, but rather have them confirm your name first.
“The driver should verify your name first by asking if you are [fill in the blank],” Cunningham wrote. “Never volunteer your name or ask the driver if they are [fill in blank] before they confirm your name. Do this prior to getting into the vehicle.”
Before you get in the vehicle, you should make sure the child lock is turned off, so you can use the door in case of emergency, according to RideGuru.
Where is the safest place to sit in the vehicle?
Uber recommends sitting in the backseat on the passenger side of the vehicle, especially when traveling alone.
“This helps ensure that you can safely exit on either side of the vehicle to avoid moving traffic, and it gives you and your driver some personal space,” the company’s website said.
Sitting in the back right also allows the rider to watch the driver and have more time to react to sudden movements or threats.
What safety features are available for me during the ride?
Uber has safety features such as a 911 feature which shows live location and trip details which, in some cities, can be sent directly to dispatchers if the emergency button is hit, according to Uber’s website.
Cunningham suggests keeping this “open and handy” so you can access it easily if something does occur.
The Uber app has a “RideCheck” feature to monitor the safety of the rides. This can detect if the trip veers off course or if a crash happens.
“If the app alerts us to anything out of the ordinary, we’ll reach out to provide you with the tools you need to get help,” according to the Uber website.
Lyft plans to add a similar predictive feature soon to detect if a ride has stopped early or gone on for too long, according to its website.
Both apps also allow the passenger to track the suggested route. It’s important to pay attention to the route and speak up if you notice the driver deviating from the scheduled route, Cunningham wrote.
How can I let others know where I am?
Riders should tell friends or family whenever they use ride-share apps, Cunningham wrote.
“Notify a trusted friend or family member of your travel information including what app you’re utilizing, vehicle information, route and ETA,” he wrote. “Let them know when you arrive safely to your destination.”
Riders can do this manually, or use built-in sharing features on the app which sends location and route in live-time to someone you choose, according to the Lyft website.
Ultimately: Be ready for anything.
If students ever feel uncomfortable during a ride, Cunningham wrote that they should be prepared to leave the vehicle.
“Trust your gut if something doesn’t feel right,” he wrote. “Immediately notify local law enforcement if you believe there is a safety concern.”