Safety Tips for Single Women using Ride Share Services
While ride share services go out of their way to vet drivers, there are still some common-sense tips to keep you as safe as possible.
If you are like me, I use Uber everywhere that it is available and in several countries I've traveled. From Amsterdam to Scotland to Portugal and more....it is my preferred method over a taxi. You get to talk to locals and find out the best places to eat or hear live music, and more importantly to me....places to avoid tourists!
However, ride share services are only safe when you throw in some common sense. Here are some tips to think about when ordering that Lyft, Uber, or other service when traveling alone.
Tip #1: Don't tell them your name.
Recently, a woman was kidnapped by who she thought was her Uber ride. I've been guilty of this before...walking up to a car and assuming because they pulled over to me that it was my lift.
Never open the door and say, "Hey, are you here for (your name)?" If it is not a verified driver and they are up to no good, it is not a good idea to give them your name so they can simply reply in the affirmative. Open the door and ask them who they are there for. If they say they don't know or remember, slam the door shut and walk away.
Tip #2: Match the pic with the driver AND the tag number of the car.
About 6 months ago, an Uber driver pulled up in a ratty-looking minivan cab with no Uber sticker and asked if I was Melissa. I said yes and went to open the sliding door. The driver rapidly began to tell me the story of why his picture and vehicle weren't what was on his Uber account. I slammed the door shut in the middle of his speech and walked away. Something told me that this was not right. I contacted Uber via their support center and reported the driver. Think about it....if you get into a vehicle that is not registered with a ride share...how would they find you? There is a reason that ride share companies have photos, GPS, tag numbers, etc. on file.
Tip #3: Pay attention to the GPS as you travel.
When I first traveled out of the country in 2008, my friend and I arrived in Paris and were immediately recognized as tourists (thanks to my friend wearing a gap hoodie and Victoria Secret's pink sweatpants. I however was all in black wearing combat boots and a military jacket!). Our cabbie RAN over to us and fought with two other drivers to load our luggage into his cab. 40 minutes later, we arrive at our hotel and the 10 euros he had asked for (the trip should have taken about 10 minutes), he demanded 90 euros and began to scream at us and refuse to unlock the trunk. Thankfully, those days are over!
With ride share apps, you know where you are going, how they are told to get you there, and the time it should take. Don't get lost in messing with your phone or talking to the driver. Keep an eye out to see if they are following the GPS route given to them. I also keep my google maps app open and see where the "car" on the app is moving to make sure we are going where we should. I've had a few drivers say they were going to take me a better way and I politely asked them if they could follow the route just so I knew where I was. Neither one was pleased and I'm pretty sure gave me a bad rating but better that then notice you're on a dirt road at night and have no idea how you got there.
Tip #4: Consider sharing a ride especially after dark.
Uber and Lyft offer the possibility of sharing rides (make sure to check the city you are going to first because not all cities offer this).
I love doing this and if possible do it wherever I go. You get to meet more people and hear stories, good food suggestions, etc. My favorite was after a gay pride parade in Seattle, Washington when halfway through my trip, I was joined by 3 girls drenched in glitter, wearing pink tutus, and rainbow haircolor. Now, THAT was a fun trip!
As a single woman out after dark, consider that the more the merrier translates into the more the safer.
Tip #5: Be honest with your reviews.
This is the hardest for me to do because I often feel that I am harming someone's livelihood. On the other hand, I tremendously depend on reading reviews. Of over 80 ride shares in the past two years, I've only given 3 bad reviews.
One was a very animated gentleman who I was having a delightful conversation with while traveling at night to the airport when he suddenly introduced religion as a topic. I politely told him I don't talk about religion as I'm not a religious person...I'm more of a spiritual, self-guided person. He spent the next 20 minutes berating me and telling me how I should run back to the church. I kept asking him to change the subject. His driving began to become erratic and next thing I knew, we were on a dead-end street behind an overpass. He stopped the car and seemed stunned at where he was. I politely told him to turn this car around now or I was jumping out and calling the police. He apologized and got me to the airport on time. I would be doing a great disservice to not give him a low rating, as well as, report him to Uber.
If it's something simple like the car had too much air freshener in it or it wasn't that clean, I can let that slide especially if the driver was polite and efficient. However, don't be afraid in this day and age where we are constantly being rated to rate appropriately.
Tip #6: Worse case scenario, have an exit strategy.
Maybe I'm just hyper-sensitive due to traumatic incidents in my past, but I am always thinking of an exit strategy when I am alone. What would I do if I got into a car that wasn't a verified ride share? What if they just decided to go crazy and be damned with the consequences? Just because a ride share company has their contact information, insurance and car information, and have run a criminal check with a photo ID does not mean that they are aware of their mental status or what is going on in their lives.
I don't mean to scare you....but I kinda do. Think ahead if something like this happened. The woman I mentioned previously ended up jumping out of the moving car suffering fractured ribs, an ankle broken in three places, and seven staples in her head. I'm sure she didn't get into that car thinking of that scenario. She did start recording them and took his picture before jumping out. Could all of that been avoided? Yes, if you follow the tips above.
Consider a safety plan that you can coordinate with your friends or family. If you text "Grandma says she is running late", that could be code to someone that you are in trouble. Have them use an app like a friend locator to find you and call for help. Meanwhile, if possible begin to record your trip with video/audio.
What about carrying a weapon? More times than not, it is statistically probable that it can end up being used against you. Something like pepper spray won't work if they are driving and you are locked in with children's safety locks on the doors. Besides, you need to stay calm and keep them calm as much as possible so as not to escalate the situation.
Fortunately, there are some safety apps you can download. Check out WatchOverMe or go to your app store and type in "safety apps for women". These developers have gone the extra mile to camouflage any activity you do on your phone while getting the necessary people the information needed to find and rescue you.
I hope this helps keep some ladies a bit safer, and actually, these tips are great for anyone who orders ride shares. Be safe, use your common sense, and enjoy your travels!