Sketchy Uber Rides: How To Avoid The Dangers of Riding With Strangers

Living on a university campus that is densely packed with limited parking spaces means giving up certain luxuries. We do not all have parking spots on campus or cars to drive around. Public transportation is slow and often does not get you to where you want to go.  So how do we get around? We Uber, we Lyft, we Bird and we walk. For those of us with balance issues trying to go places a little further than Westwood, we are often forced to trust complete strangers and get into their cars. We teach our children not to get into the back of a stranger’s car. We teach them to yell, scream and draw as much attention if anyone tries to take them somewhere they don’t want to go.  And yet, every other car on the road boasts an Uber sticker on the windshield or a Lyft plaque in the dashboard or both.

green coupe scale modelBefore I moved into the dorms, I would take Ubers occasionally and very cautiously. I would never uber alone and I would send multiple text messages during my rides to ensure someone always knew where I was. The media always portrays horror stories of Uber drivers kidnapping their fares or psychopaths posing as Uber drivers trolling for victims on the street.

man driving a car during daytime

I have heard stories from girls on campus about accidentally getting in the wrong car without even realizing. Luckily, they’ve all been able to get out of the situation alright. But I’ve heard about drivers who charge cash if you accidentally got into the wrong car, and they take you anyways. I’ve heard about drivers asking their passengers out to dinner or simply throwing people out of the car. The absolute worst situation I can imagine is drivers locking the doors once you get inside. While many of us have all been taking Ubers for years, it's not the safest thing in the world. 

The danger of Uber drivers was recently brought to national attention by the death of Samantha Josephson, a student from University of South Carolina, who was stabbed to death after getting into what she thought was her Uber car. So many girls have stories about being robbed, raped, attacked by men posing as Uber drivers or even actual Uber drivers themselves. With the increase of questions rising about the safety of Uber cars, we are finally being more cautious. But with the increased attention to the perils of ride-sharing, we are also reaching a point where one may become paranoid and wonder, is it safe to get into this car?

man driving vehicle with GPS system turned on

Luckily, no one I personally know has been attacked in an Uber, but Uber drivers are not always screened as carefully as we hope they would be. When we get into their cars, we are putting ourselves in their hands. After Josephson’s death, the safety of Uber and the “rules” of riding in a stranger’s car have been more definitively outlined for us all. Don’t say your name when you get into a car. Ask instead who the driver is there to pick up. If it’s really your driver, he or she should have your name before you even say it, and won't be able to just say “yes” when you give them your name.  Read the license plate of the car before you get in, and keep an eye out to make sure the driver resembles their photo. Watch where you’re going as the driver pulls away to ensure you head in the right direction, and if at all possible, ride with a friend. Uber also has a feature that allows you to share your rides with friends and family so they can make sure you arrive safely at your destination. Take advantage of the technology available to us and make sure to update your friends on where you are going.

yellow SUV on road with left turn signUber rides don’t have to be something to fear.  Just because we are moving off into the next phase of “public” transportation does not mean we have to worry about a new wave of dangers lurking around every corner.  With safety protocols and cautious friends, we can safely uber around Los Angeles with our friends and explore what this city has to offer. In light of recent events, we shouldn’t be afraid to call Uber drivers to take us home at the end of a long night.  We shouldn’t worry about making it home, but we should be more aware and careful to check each detail that Uber provides us with to make sure we get into the right car and make it from point A to point B safely. And make sure to use the "Check Your Ride" feature on the Uber app!