Over the weekend, a Portland Lyft driver was banned from the platform after she pulled out a stun gun to defend herself when her passengers refused to exit the vehicle. I always knew that Uber and Lyft had policies against drivers carrying firearms but I was surprised to find out that Lyft drivers aren’t allowed to carry non-lethal weapons like pepper spray or stun guns either.
And in a strange twist, Uber’s policy actually allows drivers to carry non-lethal weapons – but does that mean you should?
So What Happened?
There’s no video of what happened, but the beginning of her story might sound familiar to a lot of rideshare drivers.
The part-time Uber and Lyft driver, who asked to remain anonymous, says it was her last ride of the night. She was driving past Jantzen Beach when one of her two passengers in the backseat vomited in her car. That part, she says, is not atypical.
“I’ve had, you know, some weird experiences but it’s never been… I never felt like I was in danger,” she said.
But things quickly escalated.
According to the woman, the other passenger started complaining about paying a damage fee for his friend and things quickly escalated.
“After several minutes of me adamantly saying, ‘You need to exit my vehicle. Get out of my car! Get out of my car!’ He refused and he kept trying to intimidate me. He was hovering above me in the passenger seat. I finally said if you don’t get out of my vehicle, I’m going to grab my Taser.”
The woman grabbed the stun gun. She says the sound alone scared the man out.
As we’ve seen from prior incidents, your first and best option is to try and avoid or defuse these situations from the get go. Pulling out any type of weapon should really be a last resort, but there may be times where it’s warranted.
It’s tough to say what happened here though since there’s no video evidence. The passenger could have asked a simple question or they could have been a passenger from hell – we’ll never know. This is one of the reasons why I think it’s imperative that all drivers have a dash cam (I use the Falcon 360).
Related Article: Epic Dashcam Review for Rideshare Drivers
The other nice thing about a dash cam is that if you’re acting responsibly, the footage will only serve to exonerate you. Similar to the reasons why many police departments are starting to use body cams.
Do Drivers Really Need Protection?
I asked some readers on my Facebook page what they thought about the incident and a few of them said, “the day I need a stun gun or pepper spray while driving for Uber is the day I quit.” And I tend to agree with that statement. Sure, I’ve had some weirdos for passengers, but I’ve never felt unsafe while driving and if I did, I don’t think I’d continue to do it.
And while it doesn’t hurt that I’m a 6′ 3″ male, I still think there are lots of effective ways to defuse a situation. Just because your passengers may be unruly and intoxicated doesn’t mean you have to behave the same way.
Stun Guns vs. Pepper Spray
I’m not an expert on either option, but I have to imagine shooting off pepper spray in a confined space is going to be pretty painful for all parties involved. If I was going to carry a weapon, a stun gun seems like the better choice since as we saw in the story, just the sound of it could be enough to scare someone off.
If you decide to opt for a non-lethal weapon, just make sure that you follow your local laws, and it probably wouldn’t hurt to practice using it and watch a Youtube video or two on proper usage.
Is This Fair Policy?
I was surprised to find out that Uber is actually okay with drivers carrying non-lethal weapons as long as it’s legal in your state, while Lyft is not.
The big problem I have with Lyft’s policy though is that they don’t define what a ‘weapon’ is:
To keep our entire community comfortable, Lyft has a strict “No Weapons” policy. This means that if any driver or passenger possesses a weapon in a Lyft vehicle, regardless of whether possession is legal where they are, they will be removed from the platform.
Lyft reserves sole judgement on what constitutes a “weapon.”
So as a driver, could I be deactivated for carrying around a swiss army knife? What about a pair of scissors? What about a heavy rock? You get the point.. Anything can technically be a weapon if you use it the wrong way.
I understand why Lyft has this policy in place – they want their riders to feel safe. But Lyft telling drivers their rules supersede local state laws is pretty ridiculous in my opinion considering we’re independent contractors, right? So although it might be against Lyft’s policy to carry a stun gun, I’d put my safety ahead of someone else’s policy any day of the week.
I guess this is one of the few times where I think Lyft should change their policy to be more like Uber.
Do you think drivers should be allowed to carry non-lethal weapons or is Lyft within its rights to deactivate drivers for doing so?
-Harry @ RSG
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