When you’re in an unfamiliar location, using a rideshare service can seem to a lot easier and efficient than trying to figure out bus or subway routes. Ridesharing has become a popular option for U.S. adults, with a Pew Research Center survey reporting that the number of those who have used ride-hailing services has increased from 15% in 2015 to 36% in 2018.
While the majority of these rides arrive safely at their destinations—and, in general, the most popular rideshare services are overall safe, effective and reliable—a recent survey conducted by DriversEd.com found that a significant portion of rideshare passengers say their drivers have engaged in various risky behind-the-wheel behaviors.
From road rage to impaired, reckless or distracted driving, the DriversEd.com survey highlighted seven performance problems that raised red flags among passengers. (The full 2020 Reckless Ridesharing Report, which includes additional analysis and insights as well as safety tips for rideshare passengers, is available here.)
We asked Laura Adams, senior safety and education analyst at DriversEd.com, what vacationers should keep in mind when it comes to using rideshare services. Here are her tips.
“If you’re in a strange city and want to use a rideshare service, you want to do a little research to make sure it’s reputable,” says Adams. “You might ask a local resident, hotel concierge, or the Chamber of Commerce for reputable rideshare recommendations. In addition to well-known apps, such as Uber and Lyft, some cities have ridesharing apps that only service specific geographic areas.”
Adams also recommends that passengers check a rideshare driver’s rating and reviews before they take a ride. “If they had problems or unhappy riders, it might show in the app. If there are bad reviews, cancel the trip and initiate a new one to get a different driver.”
An advantage to using Uber or Lyft is they both offer in-app safety features, notes Adams. Uber riders can use the safety toolkit, accessible by clicking on the shield icon in the Uber app. This allows riders to share their trip with loved ones, contact 911 and verify the driver’s information. Lyft also has safety features built into its app, including the ability to share your location and route in real-time with a friend or loved one, and In-ride 911 to get emergency help right from your app.
Also, Uber’s Critical Safety Line and Lyft’s Critical Response Line allows riders to speak with a company representative to report the incident and talk about their ride concerns.
If once the ride begins, your gut tells you that it isn’t a safe place to be, Adams recommends that you politely and directly address the issue with your driver. “If the problem persists, end your ride and report the driver to their respective rideshare company. In an urgent or critical situation, contact the authorities.”
Passengers can also rate the driver and share their feedback with the rideshare company. “This may help prevent a similar future incident from occurring with another passenger,” says Adams. “If any dangerous or illegal activity took place, contact the authorities.”
If you’re on your own and using a service that doesn’t offer in-app sharing of your location, make sure you let someone know where you are, your intended destination and when you expect to return. This could be someone back home or even your concierge or desk clerk. (If you’re running late getting back, check in to avoid causing any worries!)
Even though you are using a rideshare service, you should still have a good sense of where you are going especially in relation to your hotel. Use the maps app on your phone to track your route, then once the ride begins, follow along to verify that the driver is taking you where you wanted to go. Doesn’t look right? Question the driver and, if needed, cut the ride short and get out of the car.
Equally important is to have some information about your destination: how safe it is and whether it is served by other forms of public transportation besides ridesharing services. You don’t want to exit a ridesharing vehicle because you sense something is “off” only to find you are in an area where it’s almost impossible to hail a cab or find a bus, or that there aren’t any open businesses.
And while you may be the gregarious sort, don’t share your travel plans, phone number or other personal details with your driver, says SmarterTravel. Keep the conversation to a simple hello and goodbye, and be equally careful about any phone conversations you have while in the car, since you may be sharing information that should be kept confidential.
No matter where you use a rideshare service, always wear your seatbelt, even in the back seat. Finally, says Adams, “always trust your instincts if you don’t feel safe and don’t get in the car. If you’re already on a ride and see that your driver is distracted or impaired by drugs or alcohol, ask the driver to drop you at the nearest safe location.”
Photo Credit: Pablo