Since ridesharing burst onto the scene a few years ago, a big question for many has centered around how women fit into the picture.
First, of course, is the question of how safe it is for women to ride with Uber or Lyft, essentially hopping into vehicles with total strangers. Thankfully, Uber and Lyft have both made enormous efforts to ensure that drivers are properly vetted and qualified before employing them.
Secondly, though, is the question of how safe it is for women to DRIVE with Uber or Lyft. The answer to this is a little more nebulous, as there really isn’t a way to completely vet passengers before allowing them to request a ride. Sure, there’s a rating system, but if a passenger hasn’t been rated yet, this won’t apply.
Women should have every right to drive with Uber or Lyft, but let’s face it, there can be dangers. But we want to see that change, so here are some important safety tips for women as they consider a career as a ridesharing driver.
1. Check Ratings
Uber and Lyft have ratings systems with good reason. Both companies have a two way rating system, which allows the passenger to rate the driver, and vice versa. This is maybe one of the most helpful ways to guard your safety.
When you receive a ride request, check the rider’s ratings. This will enable you to make sure that the rider has a history of following Uber’s community guidelines. Anything below a four star rating should be a red flag.
Uber and Lyft encourage ratings for this very purpose, that both passengers and drivers should be able to check them and make wise decisions about who they’re willing to ride with.
2. Give Ratings
Of course, another way to guard safety, especially the safety of OTHER drivers, is to give detailed ratings when possible. You benefit from the ratings others have given, and you want to give the same benefit to other drivers and riders.
If you have reason to feel unsafe or even uncomfortable during a ride, don’t be afraid to rate that rider honestly. When you do this, you serve that rider with a warning, you protect other drivers, and you contribute to that rider being deactivate if their behavior doesn’t improve.
3. Take Care of Your Car
Just in terms of general safety, you should be sure that your car is always in excellent working condition when you’re getting ready to drive. Don’t put off taking it into the shop or getting your oil changed, and then set off to pick up total strangers.
It would be dangerous for both you and your passenger were you to break down in the middle of the ride no matter when it happens or who it is. But it would be especially dangerous were it to happen at night, with a passenger whom you already didn’t feel great about.
If there’s ever a time to be vigilant about the upkeep of your vehicle, it’s when you’re driving for Uber or Lyft. In fact, you must pass a 19-point vehicle inspection in order to drive for them, so keeping your car in excellent condition is kind of a no-brainer!
4. Choose Times Wisely
It may be that you don’t really have a choice about when you’re able to drive for Uber or Lyft, but if you do, we recommend driving during the safest times of day. Typically, conditions become less safe between the hours of 9:00PM and 5:00AM. Driving during the day means you’re less likely to run into someone who is drunk or who has questionable intentions.
If you do need to drive during these times, you’ll want to make sure you have a plan in place for what to do if you don’t feel safe. Have a person on call to answer if you need them and avoid areas that you know to be unsafe, and just generally follow your gut instincts.
5. Choose Areas Wisely
Aside from making sure you’re not driving during times that are less safe, it’s best to avoid areas where you might not feel safe. This might be the street with all the bars near campus, or a neighborhood with a known history of violence and crime. Whatever the case, if you don’t feel great about being there, it’s probably best to avoid it.
You’ll also want to make sure you have a very reliable navigation app to ensure you aren’t getting lost or turned around in an unfamiliar area.
6. Don’t Be Afraid To Cancel
When driving for Uber or Lyft, especially in the beginning, you can feel the pressure to never cancel on a rider. Obviously you want to receive good ratings, and you don’t want to risk being deactivated for frequent cancelling.
However, there is a good time to cancel, and if you feel at all unsafe when you arrive to pick up a rider, then that is the time. Don’t forget that you will be able to explain why you cancelled the trip, and don’t forget that your safety is obviously the most important factor in play.
Vickie Fagan, who wrote about being a female Uber driver, describes the one time she felt unsafe as being one she should have cancelled, in which the rider gave a false name and was not who he had described himself to be. Rather than a woman, she ended up picking up two men.
“You are not obliged to let someone into the car who does not match the name on the request,” she says.
7. Have a Plan For Inebriated Passengers
As most ridesharing drivers will tell you, there really isn’t a way to avoid the fact that you will pick up a drunk passenger from time to time. After all, one of the reasons people call Uber and Lyft is because they are unable to drive themselves, and being drunk certainly qualifies as a reason for that.
The first thing to remember is that this will often be more of an inconvenience than anything. Typically you aren’t in danger of much, except perhaps your car being puked in. In addition to having water and chargers available for passengers, maybe have some vomit bags on hand as well, just in case.
Secondly, you should, as we have already said, feel free to cancel if a passenger’s drunkenness seems dangerous in any way. If you arrive to pick someone up and they make any comments that are inappropriate, there is no need to let them in your car. However, if they simply seem too drunk to get themselves home, you just may need to put up with a few uncomfortable minutes.
8. Get Your Friends In On Your Safety
One of the best ways to feel and be safe while driving is getting others in on your safety. There are several ways you can do this.
- Make sure someone always knows you are on duty. Just shoot a quick text letting them know you’ll be driving for the next several hours.
- Use an app, such as Find My Friends, that will enable a friend or family member to keep tabs on your location. If you were to feel unsafe, they could find you quickly.
- Check in when you get a moment between rides, and have a friend who is waiting for you to check in and will text when they don’t hear from you.
These steps aren’t totally necessary, but they can do a lot for your peace of mind as you drive.
Another alternative to driving with Uber or Lyft is See Jane Go, which is a ride sharing company exclusively for women. This ensures that you always pick up a woman, allowing you to feel both safe and empowered at the same time.
9. Don’t Be Ruled By Fear
As much as we want to emphasize the need for taking safety precautions as you drive for Uber or Lyft, the truth is that it’s safer than you may realize, and you don’t want to spend all your time ruled by fear.
In another story, Fagan recounts some men getting in her car in the late afternoon, already drunk. She was nervous at first, but quickly realized they were both just excited because their team had just won a big game, and she ended up having a great ride with them.
It would be easy to give into being nervous about every passenger, but that’s not the solution. Instead, take all of the precautions we’ve mentioned so that you know you’ll be safe, and then trust that you’ve set yourself up for success.
Is it safe for women to drive with Uber and Lyft? Yes. It’s safe for women, just as it’s safe for men, if they are smart and protect themselves. Let’s face it, all of these things are true for all drivers, and everyone can benefit from having some safety tactics in place before deciding to drive with Uber or Lyft.
If you’re a woman and have been unsure about pursuing a career with Uber or Lyft, it’s wise to be concerned about safety, but we don’t think it should prevent you from experiencing a career that many have found to be ideal due to its flexibility, ease, and earning potential.
Be smart, have a plan, but above all, enjoy the ride.