Rideshare assaults are rare, but they still happen. As people refocus their thinking about risk, there are two truths that emerge.
The first is that rideshare companies do not always have the best screening processes. The second is that getting into any car, be it a rideshare, taxi, black car or shuttle, will never be a zero-risk option. You need to understand the risks and the steps you should always take to protect yourself before getting in a car with a stranger.
Why Is Rideshare Assault Still Happening?
Simply doing a quick Google search for “rideshare assault” provides way too many search results of recent stories of assaults, including sexual assaults, perpetrated by drivers. There are still predators behind the wheel.
In South Carolina, a college student got into a car she thought was her Uber, police say. She was found dead in a field. I was asked to discuss this on CNN. When you watch the video on rideshare assault and murder, you will clearly see how upset I was, and still am.
In this case, a predator pretending to be rideshare driver abducted a young woman. But as part of their investigation, CNN took a look at Uber and Lyft and found that both companies approved the hire of thousands of drivers who have criminal records. Uber responded to CNN and said that it knew there were some hiring mistakes previously, but the company has worked hard to improve the way it hires. In 2017, the company claims, it rejected over 200,000 applicants because of issues found during a background check.
This establishes two very real rideshare assault risks. The first risk comes from poorly screened rideshare drivers. The second comes from predators who pretend to be drivers so that they can abduct vulnerable people. To protect yourself, you must understand these risks and know how to respond.
How to Avoid Rideshare Assault
Verify your driver. Your rideshare app includes a photo of your driver and the year, make and model of their vehicle. Before you get in the vehicle, double check to make sure everything is correct. If anything is off, don’t get in the vehicle. Never, ever simply get into a vehicle that pulls up in front of you. Following these steps will ensure that the driver you ride with is an actual employee of the rideshare service.
Always sit in the back seat. This is a good rule for taxis and black cars as well as rideshares. Drivers should insist on distance between themselves and passengers unless there are 4 or 5 people trying to get into the same vehicle. Note that sexual assaults can still happen even if there is a crowd in the backseat. It’s best to be in a separate row from the driver whenever possible.
Rideshare in groups. Riding alone presents higher risks, particularly for people who may be unable to protect themselves. People who have been drinking excessively or who are under the influence of drugs should never get into any rideshare, taxi or black car by themselves.
Know your route. Rideshare drivers and taxi drivers will use GPS or their knowledge of an area to get you where you are going as quickly as possible. You should know those routes as well. Immediately question any deviation from that route, and be fully aware of where you are going. Experienced drivers may sometimes take routes around traffic or road closures, but these should be short and in well-populated areas.
Trust your instinct. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t get in the vehicle. You can always call another.
What to Do If a Rideshare Assault Happens
Use the same phone you used to call the rideshare to call 911 at the first sign of trouble. Law enforcement will be able to track your location as long as you have an open line. Tell the driver that you have called police and that you want to be let out in a safe area immediately.
Written by Robert Siciliano, CEO of Credit Parent, Head of Training & Security Awareness Expert at Protect Now, #1 Best Selling Amazon author, Media Personality & Architect of CSI Protection Certification.