Uber and Lyft Have a Sexual Assault Problem
For several years, it has become apparent that Uber, Lyft, and the ridesharing industry as a whole has a severe national sexual assault problem on its hands. Ridesharing has become ubiquitous in recent years, and for good reason, but one area where it has fallen short of its traditional taxi competitors is safety. Where training, safety checks, and customer protections have been a routine part of the taxi industry for over 50 years, Uber and Lyft – despite multiple class-action lawsuits – require minimum background checks, vetting, or training. This fact has resulted in an obscene amount of sexual and physical assaults at the hands of drivers with criminal records, a history of substance abuse, or more.
So, while I definitely can’t recommend that anyone avoid using Uber or Lyft – though it is concerning how little they have done to prevent attacks on their passengers – I would like to recommend the following safety tips when ordering your car:
Check that the car that you ordered is the one in front of you. Predators sometimes pose as drivers, especially outside of bars and nightclubs. Always verify that the info provided to you by the app matches the car and driver before you.
Ride with friends if possible. If riding alone, check-in with friends before you leave and after you arrive.
Stay awake in your car to monitor your driver’s navigation, activity, and connection with the app.
Report any concerns about your driver to both the ridesharing company as well as the Better Business Bureau. Low ratings on the app might stop the particular driver, but won’t necessarily encourage the larger company to adopt safer practices for its passengers.
Take a taxi if you can. This may seem like antiquated advice (and I know many of us have had strange taxi experiences as well), but major cab companies do have better safety practices across the board. CURB is a taxi app that connects you to local taxi services.
You may ask, though, what advice would I give Uber and Lyft on making their services safer for passengers and combating instances of potential sexual assault?
Take complaints seriously. Believe victims when they report. Offer support and referrals to hospitals and law enforcement. This may sound like obvious or simple advice, but it’s not and certainly not at a corporate level.
Launch a program offering free rides for sexual assault victims to hospitals, police stations, and other victim-related services as a show of good faith and support.
Install a panic button in the app. This is something that I’m sure would be easy for these companies to implement.
Hire more female or female-identifying drivers. Most victims of Uber-Lyft-related sexual assault (and sexual assault overall) are cis-gendered women and their perpetrators cis-gendered men, so this would help to reduce concern or fear among female passengers. Also, make sure those female drivers feel safe when hitting the road and picking up passengers.
Upgrade your vetting and approval process for drivers. This should include more than the initial drug test currently required.
Require sexual assault training for all employees. This should include basic consent training, bystander intervention techniques, and instituting a check-and-clear practice to confirm both passenger and driver are the same as matched by the app. This will both put the drivers on alert that they are being watched and provide training for them to help passengers who may be in need after an assault.
I would then suggest that drivers display a certificate of sexual assault training in their vehicles to bring comfort to passengers, as well as keep drivers on their toes.
You can read about a few worrying articles about that here: