Safety tips to consider before getting into an Uber or Lyft

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Drivers for ride-hailing services like Lyft and Uber are joining with drivers for taxi and limousine companies to call for a limit on ride-hailing services in Chicago. | Associated Press

Without hesitation, millions of Americans use Uber and Lyft to get around every day.

The ride-hailing companies offer services that can be cashless, quick, convenient and sometimes cheaper than hailing a traditional taxi.

Still, the ridesharing equation can go wrong like in the case of the South Carolina college student who was recently killed after getting into a car she mistook for an Uber. Nathaniel David Rowland, 24, is facing murder and kidnapping charges in the case.

“Everyone at Uber is devastated to hear about this unspeakable crime, and our hearts are with Samantha Josephson’s family and loved ones,” an Uber spokesperson told USA TODAY.

“Since 2017, we’ve been working with local law enforcement and college campuses across the country to educate the public about how to avoid fake rideshare drivers.”


Missing college student mistook accused murderer’s car for Uber ride

As shocking as it is, it’s not the first rideshare horror story to occur this year.

Authorities said a Lyft driver in Louisiana kidnapped and raped an intoxicated female passenger at his apartment in January. And in 2018, a man who posed as an Uber driver was charged with rape and sexual battery after attacking two women in Georgia.

While major issues are rare compared to how frequently people use the services, both Uber and Lyft offer additional tips and policies to maximize passenger safety.


Wait indoors for your ride: Avoid spending unnecessary time outside alone with your phone in your hand. Instead, wait indoors until the app shows your driver has arrived.

Pay attention to the vehicle: Check out the make and model of the car that pulls up and compare the license plate number to the one listed on the app. Also, look at the driver photo and name. Make sure it matches what’s listed in the app.

South Carolina requires drivers to have rear license plates, according to a spokesperson for the Charleston (South Carolina) Police Department. Keep in mind that these plates may be harder to spot than front license plates as a driver approaches.

Look for the beacon: Uber has begun rolling out a glowing sign it calls a “beacon” in some markets. The device glows in a color the would-be passenger selects, so they’ll know exactly which vehicle is the one they ordered.

Still, dashboard LED lights that say “Uber” or “Lyft” can be misleading. Anyone – not just authorized drivers – can buy them on Amazon for less than $20.

Use caution: Uber rides can only be requested through the app, so never get in a car with a driver who claims to be with Uber and offers a ride.

Wear a seat belt: The Centers for Disease Control reports that seatbelt use is the most effective way to save lives and reduce injuries related to car accidents.

Let a friend know: While en route, tap “Share status” in the app to share your driver’s name, photo, license plate, and location with a friend or family member. They can track your trip and see your ETA without downloading the Uber app.

Don’t share too much info: There’s no need to share your phone number or other contact information with your driver. If a rider and driver need to contact each other, the Uber app automatically anonymizes both phone numbers to protect everyone’s privacy.

Trust your instincts: Use your best judgment when riding with Uber. And if you ever feel you’re in an emergency situation, call 911 immediately. You can do that right within the mobile app, as Uber also began rolling out an emergency button for the app in 2018.

Be respectful: As outlined in Uber’s community guidelines, please respect your driver and his or her car.

Give feedback: Your feedback helps make the experience better for everyone. There’s a 24/7 global support team that reviews feedback and will follow up with appropriate action on any reports of conduct that violate our community guidelines.


Before you get in: Ask the driver who he or she is there to pick up. Since the app provides the driver with your name, they should be able to answer.

Call it in: The company has a critical response team that is always available if you are involved in an incident that you believe threatens your personal safety. First, call the authorities and then report the problem to Lyft.

Leave the gun at home: Lyft doesn’t allow drivers or riders to carry weapons, even in places where it’s legal to carry a weapon. It’s safer for everyone.

Rate your driver: You’ve got the power. Passengers and drivers rate each other after every ride. If you rate someone 3 stars or below, you’ll never be matched with them again.

Keep your valuables close: Per Lyft’s terms of service, the company is not responsible for personal belongings left in the car by drivers or riders, and there’s no reimbursement for those items.

Keep everyone’s safety in mind: This means not asking your driver to make that illegal 16-point U-turn in that intersection and remembering to bring a child seat with you if you need one.

Dalvin Brown, USA TODAY


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