Tips to stay safe when riding with Uber

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Companies such as Driversng, Uber and Lyft allow people to book a ride from a private driver via their smartphone application without using cash. Using GPS, the phones signal the closest driver available to pick up waiting for passengers wherever they are.

Generally, the ride services are safe to use and they have been wildly popular in the region for trips to the beaches, clubs, restaurants, hotels and airports. But since the services launched, there have been reports of passengers being sexually assaulted by drivers in the region or by someone posing as a ride-share driver.

“There are many cases of imposter drivers out there who prey on people who appear to be looking for their Uber driver,’’ said John Boit, a spokesman for the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association. “We’ve seen over 100 such cases reported by the media, and have every reason to believe that’s a tiny fraction of the real number.”

For folks who are new to the services or frequent riders, here are some tips from the companies, police and travel consumer sites on what to do before, during and after the rides on how to stay safe when using the apps.

  • Plan ahead

Before you request a ride, think about where you’re headed and review the safety features in the app so you know how to use them.

  • Request your ride from inside

Avoid spending unnecessary time outside alone with your phone in your hand. Instead as suggested by Miami Beach Police spokesman Ernesto Rodriguez that passengers should avoid being alone while waiting outside their ride to arrive. “Instead, wait indoors until the app shows your driver has arrived,’’ he said.

  • Recognize your vehicle

Users should make sure that the license plate, the driver’s photo and name match the information on your smartphone’s app. There have been reports of drivers using fake Uber and Lyft emblems and dashboard logos.

Did you know your Uber app has built-in features for an even safer ride? Make sure to get in the right Uber by ticking off the vehicle recognition checklist.

“Rides can only be requested through the app, so never get in a car with a driver who claims to be with Uber/Lyft and offers a ride,’’ Rodriguez said.

Also, ask the driver the name of the passenger (you) he or she is picking up before you enter the car.

  • Recognize your Driver

There have been several cases of people posing as drivers, but both Uber and Lyft offer passengers details such as the driver’s name, their photo and car type.

Driver-partners are asked periodically to take a selfie in the Uber app before they accept rides. Confirm the face of the driver before entering the ride.

  • Don’t ride shotgun

Passengers (especially women) who ride up front have been on the receiving end of assaults, groping and other aggressive, unwanted behaviour, according to Taxicab, Limousine and Paratransit Association spokesman Dave Sutton.

Solo riders should sit in the backseat of the car. “Sitting in the back creates a slight safety barrier between the passenger and the driver,’’ said Boit. And “it gives you and your driver some personal space,’’ according to Uber. And when you’re back there, remember to buckle up. Rodriguez added that is also “ensures you can safely exit on either side of the vehicle to avoid moving traffic.”

  • Buckle up

The Centers for Disease Control, reports that seatbelt uses is the most effective way to save lives and reduce injuries related to car accidents.

  • Share your trip details

According to Uber, you’re able to tap “Share status” in the mobile app and share your driver’s name, photo, license plate and location with a friend or family member.

When you are on the road to your destination, use the “share status” in the app to provide details of your driver and the car’s plate with one of your friends, relatives or whomever you may be meeting up with. “They can track your trip and see your ETA without downloading the apps,’’ added Rodriguez. Or you can also text your contact the route.

Passengers should also “make sure the driver is taking the most direct route (you can follow the route on your phone to double-check it),” said Boit.

  • Be kind and respectful

As outlined in uber community guidelines, please respect your driver and his or her car.

  • Don’t reveal too many personal details

Some of us are chatty Kathys or Karls and enjoy talking with the driver to pass the time. But Driversng suggests avoiding giving away too much personal information, “like how long you’re travelling for, where you live, or your phone number or any other contact information.”

  • Rate your driver

Uber and Lyft encourage customers to provide feedback on their trips. This is one way the companies can take action if there is inappropriate conduct among its drivers. “We have a strict zero-tolerance policy and any behaviour threatening the safety or comfort of a community member is not tolerated,’’ a Lyft spokeswoman said.

  • Follow your intuition

Trust your instincts and use your best judgement when riding with Uber and Lyft. If you feel uncomfortable, call a friend and keep talking on the phone throughout the ride. If you are in immediate danger, call an emergency line.

  • Use the ‘Help’ function

If you have questions, suggestions or you want to flag something regarding safety? The best place to go to is the ‘Help’ feature in your Uber app. Get quick assistance with any issue.

Would you like to read more tips? What other helpful tips do you keep in mind when riding with Uber and Lyft? Let us know below in the comments. Thanks for reading!

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