The dangers of Uber driving have always been a concern among drivers, but nowadays it seems as if attacks on drivers are becoming more brazen. Below, senior RSG contributor Paula Gibbins highlights a recent story of a DoorDash delivery driver, dangerous scenarios you may find yourself in as a driver/courier, and how to handle these situations if they happen to you.
It’s a scary time out there. Tensions are high and people seem to be angrier than they used to be. Violence seems to be at the forefront of many situations that shouldn’t warrant violence.
It seems like every day there is another headline about an Uber driver being carjacked, or a delivery person gets killed while on the job, or a DoorDash driver’s car being stolen with his infant children still inside.
Let’s walk through what happened with the abovementioned DoorDash driver and discuss the overall dangers of Uber driving.
Details of Carjacking and Kidnapping
DoorDash delivery driver Jeffrey Fang was working a DoorDash shift while carting around his 1-year old son and 4-year-old daughter in the backseat.
While I think almost everyone can agree it’s not a good idea to leave your kids in the backseat while delivering food to strangers, it’s also important to look at the reasons why this father felt the need to do just that.
It was reported that Fang does not earn enough with working for DoorDash to be able to afford childcare. But, how much does childcare cost? It varies by region, of course, but let’s look at San Francisco, where this Dasher lives and works.
According to Children’s Council San Francisco, childcare in San Francisco varies from about $1,700 to $2,400 a month, depending on age range and if it’s a child care center or a family child care home.
That doesn’t even consider the thought of multiple kids needing care, like the situation with Fang.
If Fang’s only job is DoorDash delivering, that’s an expense that proves unaffordable. If his only options are to drive with his kids or not work so he can watch them, what is he supposed to do when it comes time to pay the bills?
Fang was dropping a delivery off when he turned around and noticed a strange man in his vehicle. Fang stated, “I yelled at him and told him to get out and two of my kids are in the car.”
But, before he knew it, the stranger was driving off and taking Fang’s kids with him. Though the kids should never have been in the vehicle, it’s also true that safety precautions aren’t always in place to protect delivery drivers in situations like these. Fang’s vehicle never should have been stolen.
Luckily, the kids were found about 4 hours later, they were checked out at a hospital and were deemed as doing well.
Since the incident, a GoFundMe account has been created for Fang and his family, raising over $144,000 as of the writing of this article, surpassing the goal of $100,000 to give Fang enough to take time off to spend with his family and regroup after the traumatic experience.
What Do App Companies Do to Protect Drivers?
Each app company has its own safety protocols in place. Some make it easier for their drivers or delivery people to get immediate emergency help than others. Here’s a breakdown of each of the biggest companies:
In an emergency, DoorDash encourages delivery drivers to call 911 and then report a health or safety concern through DoorDash’s Emergency Health or Safety Issue form.
For more information on how they are handling COVID-19, read the DoorDash Health and Safety Plan.
Within the Uber app, there is a safety button that drivers can push while on a trip if they need to start a phone call to emergency services.
When you click on the shield while on a ride—or even if you’ve already canceled a ride—and you’ll have the option to either set up “Follow My Ride” to share your location with a chosen friend or family member or you can call 911 Assistance at the push of a button instead of actively having to find your phone app to dial 911.
On their website, Uber suggests when in an emergency to dial 911 when you’re able to do so safely. It even states: “Uber has teamed up with RapidSOS to pilot 911 integration with local emergency authorities. When a driver (or rider) uses the emergency button in our pilot cities, key details like location, license plate, and the make and model of the car will be automatically sent to the 911 dispatcher.”
Similar to Uber, Lyft has a Safety tools tab in their app.
After clicking on the Safety tools tab while on a ride, the tools will populate with “Safety at Lyft” where you can learn more about their safety features, “Ride details” where you can share your location with friends or family, and “Emergency Assistance” where you can call 911.
Lyft also has a section on its website called Safety info for drivers. This section includes information for how to report or handle yourself if you receive citations or find yourself in an emergency situation, a section on Safety 101, an explanation about two-way ratings and more.
There’s also a section specifically on driver safety guidelines encouraging drivers to only use their own driver profile, only using their approved car, not bringing friends or family along when they drive, and more.
Driver Fears and Advice for Handling the Dangers of Uber Driving
There are many dangers of Uber driving. Those dangers seem to be on the rise, making some drivers rethink their willingness to drive for companies like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash. Here are some of their fears along with advice other drivers have given.
Situation #1 – Passenger refuses to leave the vehicle
One possible scenario is the driver looks back as the passenger(s) get in the vehicle and none of them are wearing masks. The driver politely asks for the passengers to put on masks for the ride. Passengers refuse.
From there, the driver cancels the ride and asks the passengers to exit the vehicle. Again, passengers refuse.
Ways to handle it:
- One Reddit poster suggests, “The key is not to overreact. If a situation like that is to arise. Tell them the ride is over, you canceled the ride. Then dial the police as you get out of the car so you are very serious about it.”
- Another said, “If you decide to call the police, do so from outside the vehicle and away from the passenger and always take your keys, wallet, phone and any weapons you may or may not keep. Keep your phone’s video camera running while outside the vehicle.”
- If you’re already on the ride when a passenger gets unruly, pull over to a well-lit, populated area if possible and then follow the advice above—turn off the vehicle, leave with your keys and call the police.
Situation #2 – Driver or passenger makes sexual advances
A passenger recently shared on Reddit about recent Uber drivers asking personal questions and asking her out.
She shared, “I keep getting asked really personal questions. How much money I earn, if I’m single, if I live alone, if someone’s waiting for me at home, if I have kids, if I use dating apps etc. I’ve been asked out twice now in a week and it’s put me in a mood if I’m honest.”
Ways to handle it:
- One responder posted, “Practice giving short, curt answers to questions. Or just lie. (‘You’re cute, do you have kids.’ ‘Thanks, I have a husband and 2 lovely kids.’)”
- Several responded that if this happens, simply report the drivers immediately. The same would be true of passengers. Give a low rating and state why they made you feel uncomfortable when asked to explain the low rating.
Situation #3 – Carjacking
We covered carjacking extensively in our article Carjacking Prevention Tips – How to Stay Safe on the Road. Many cases of carjacking involve the passenger—or person posing as a passenger—having a weapon.
Ways to handle it:
- Utilize the in-app emergency features as described toward the beginning of this article.
- Keep a second phone on you in case the carjacker takes your main phone. Use this secondary phone to call the police when it is safe to do so.
- Be aware of your surroundings and trust your gut. If something feels wrong, get out of the situation before it turns into something disastrous.
- In cases like the kidnapping DoorDash situation, it would be smart to lock your doors as you drop off your orders so no one can enter your vehicle.
What More Can Gig Companies Do?
Despite the efforts of app companies like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash, there’s always more that can be done.
One big thing that drivers want but no app company does is to enforce passengers to use their real names and profile pictures. In an example posted on Reddit, the passenger’s name showed up as “Trashbag”.
Drivers are encouraged to confirm the name on the account before picking up a passenger, but with something like “Trashbag” that is a ridiculous request. The passengers often don’t remember what off-the-wall name they came up with.
To top it off, most passengers don’t have a profile picture at all, let alone one that will show their true face to a driver.
I mentioned in my article Is It Safe for Females to Drive for Uber and Lyft?:
I think it would be appropriate for Uber/Lyft to allow their drivers to carry tasers for that added level of safety drivers crave. On one hand, Uber has stated in the past they do allow tasers – but some state laws do not allow you to carry tasers. Lyft does not allow weapons (including tasers) in driver vehicles.
Allowing that would go a long way in making drivers feel safer and discouraging passengers from acting like imbeciles.
I also believe that Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and other delivery and rideshare app services should provide self-defense training for their drivers.
I believe that app companies should pay their drivers more, but these gig economy jobs aren’t really known for being great full-time jobs for most drivers. Is it supposed to allow someone to make a living or just help supplement income?
The DoorDash driver might consider asking friends or family to watch his kids in the future, or have another adult stay in the car while he delivers to help make sure nothing like this happens again.
As a woman driver, I do feel unsafe. I am not sure I will go back to driving after the coronavirus is under better control. Carjackings are taking place in broad daylight and all over the country.
According to Dave Lee of the Financial Times, Uber and Lyft recently expressed worry that there may be too few drivers to meet rideshare demand when things pick up later this year. Besides pay (which is also a big one!), maybe one of the reasons why drivers are hesitant to return is ‘safety’? I’m sure I’m not the only one reassessing whether or not it’s worth it to drive for Uber or Lyft anymore.
Drivers, what do you think? Have you considered quitting for Uber or Lyft because of safety reaons?
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-Paula @ RSG