Is Uber safe for drivers? Is it safe to be a delivery driver? That question could be asked about any of the gig platforms, including Lyft, DoorDash, and others. Increasingly, drivers and couriers are beginning to suspect the answer might be ‘no.’ However, there are several ways drivers can protect themselves. Below, senior RSG contributor Paula Gibbins outlines tips for drivers and couriers to stay safe, plus how Uber, Lyft and other gig companies can make driving safer.
Too many times I open up my browser to see another incident involving a rideshare driver being attacked, carjacked, injured or killed. This whole country seems to be a big pile of tension that is waiting for just one reason to burst and wreak havoc on everyone and everything in sight.
Just over a week ago, a driver was assaulted by irate passengers who were angry he asked them to wear a mask: Uber Riders Get HEATED At Driver Over Mask Policy When Asked To Leave
We’re seeing attacks against drivers, delivery people, women, people of color, the list goes on and on and on. It’s not just against rideshare drivers, but violence is everywhere these days. As drivers and couriers, being safe is of the utmost importance.
Note: There’s been an update on the Uber Cough Monster (video above): she’s entered a not guilty plea to multiple charges!
- Driving and delivering can be unpredictable – one of the best ways to protect yourself is with a dash camera for rideshare drivers (they also work for delivery drivers!)
- Uber, Lyft and other gig platforms could do more to protect drivers, like requiring customers to share their real names and photos via the app
- How can drivers & couriers protect themselves with non-lethal weapons? Keep your doors locked and consider installing a safety partition
Violence Against Rideshare Drivers: Has Driving for Uber Ever Been Safe?
In all honesty, violence against drivers is nothing new. Driver safety has been a concern practically since day one. About a year ago, Harry hosted a YouTube Live talking about 10 ways drivers could keep themselves safe on the road: Dash Cams & Driver Safety:
It’s one of those things where it’s easy to say things like:
“It’s an isolated incident and doesn’t happen all that often.”
“Passengers are unpredictable, and their actions are out of anyone’s control.”
These are obviously not isolated incidents… at least not anymore. Almost daily, we see headlines about assault, shooting, carjacking, killing. What’s worse is drivers don’t always feel like Uber or Lyft have their backs.
Less than a year ago, RSG contributor Joe Pierce covered what happened when an Uber driver was assaulted by a passenger – and how Uber handled it: This Uber Driver Was Assaulted By A Passenger! How Did Uber Handle It?
Much like the response to driver ‘Ed’ in the above video, reactions from Uber and Lyft are often delayed and rehearsed—always something along the lines of: “Safety is our number one priority.” Blah, blah, blah. After a while it just goes in one ear and out the other and loses all meaning.
More often than not, communications from Uber and Lyft that mention the word “safety” is geared toward keeping safe from spreading the coronavirus. While not getting coronavirus is definitely important, is it really on the same level as staying safe from passengers looking to cause harm, treating drivers like servants, disrespecting drivers and people refusing to follow the rules of the platforms?
Whether you “believe” in the coronavirus or not, and whether you think people need to wear masks or not is irrelevant. Both Uber and Lyft still require passengers and drivers to wear masks during the rides. There’s no way to justify attacking a driver for asking you to follow those rules. It’s been a year now…we all know the routine.
What Are Uber, Lyft and Other Gig Companies Doing About Driver & Courier Safety?
The short answer, unfortunately, is not much. Most recently, Uber and Lyft determined they would share information with each other about drivers accused of assault on the platforms.
But what about passengers who assault drivers? Shouldn’t they be banned on both apps as well? Passengers should be banned on both apps more often than if it’s shared on national news. Keep it fair all around. Drivers deserve to be safe from their passengers, too.
Recently, 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. As he was dropping off a delivery, someone carjacked his vehicle. Luckily, the kids and vehicle were recovered.
There have been other similar instances happening across the country. In March 2021, another DoorDash delivery driver was doing her job while her one-year-old daughter was along for the ride. In her instance, it looked like the delivery order was fake and likely created in order to nab the vehicle when the driver walked away from it with the delivery.
In both cases, and I’m sure many others, DoorDash has worked with authorities in any way they can. But as far as doing something to help the drivers who feel the need to bring their kids along, there hasn’t been much said.
Both Uber and Lyft have a feature where you can share your location with friends or family to help ensure you’re not lingering in a bad neighborhood or other such instances.
Both apps also have emergency buttons built into their platforms to help with immediate emergency situations. However, Uber and Lyft also both ban most kinds of weapons so drivers cannot protect themselves in a heightened situation.
Of course, if a passenger is planning on carjacking the driver’s vehicle, they likely will be carrying a weapon and the drivers will be defenseless.
Lyft also requires that all drivers complete their “Community Safety Education Program” to access driver mode on their apps. From drivers we’ve spoken to, it’s a pretty forgettable video that most drivers click through and don’t pay attention to.
However, if a driver paid attention to it, the program outlined how to read other people’s boundaries, what’s appropriate for an in-car conversation, how to avoid intrusive questions, and tips for defusing a situation if you ever feel uncomfortable. It’s not the worst video, but again – how many drivers are truly watching it and absorbing the information vs. hurriedly trying to click through so they can get on the road?
How Gig Companies Could Make Driving and Delivery Safer
The short answer: give drivers and couriers more.
- More information
- More safety features
- More understanding
Drivers would feel safer if passengers had some kind of accountability, like some kind of passenger verification. Make them use their real name when signing up instead of a made up name like “Dirtbag” or “J”.
Uber and Lyft could provide dash cams to all of their drivers, with a company like DisplayRide. DisplayRide is a rideshare monitoring platform whose goal is to make rideshare drivers (and passengers) feel safer on the road.
DisplayRide has a two way dash cam that automatically uploads footage to the cloud, so you can use it for false deactivation claims, safety incidents and more. DisplayRide’s website states the goal is for their devices to help deter people from wrongdoing, create a chance for de-escalating situations, and document any instances that do take place to provide to insurance companies or rideshare platforms to prove what happened.
Uber and Lyft should weigh each situation evenly between passengers and drivers instead of erring on the side of passengers being in the right since they are the paying customer. Drivers deserve to be heard and protected.
5 Ways Rideshare and Delivery Drivers Can Stay Safe
The last piece of the puzzle is what can drivers do? We can’t control passengers or their behavior, so it’s best that we prepare ourselves for the worst.
1. Get a Dash Cam
The most important thing I can recommend is get a dash cam! It is irrefutable evidence if something were to happen.
If that driver who was coughed on and assaulted earlier in March did not have a dash cam, do you think his passenger would have been arrested? Do you think he’d be driving on the platform? A dash cam is a cheap insurance policy that helps prove your side of the story when it comes down to he said/she said situations.
2. Lock Your Doors
When you’re doing deliveries, have a spare set of keys with you and lock your car doors when you’re exiting the vehicle to drop off the food or items. This could help prevent carjackings of delivery drivers as well as keep your kids safe if you’re doing deliveries with them in the back seats.
There were two recent incidents of kidnapping when carjackers took over the vehicle of a DoorDash delivery driver, likely without realizing kids were in the backseat. Both cases ended well, but could have been prevented simply by the driver locking the door behind them while making the delivery drop off.
3. Install a Safety Partition
If you have passengers, consider getting a safety partition. This is useful, not just to help stop the spread of coronavirus, but to prevent passengers from pulling a knife on you.
If you’re not sure what to get, check out RSG contributor Gabe Ets-Hokin’s article on vehicle partitions for drivers. This article was geared more to keep you safe from coronavirus and other airborne particles, but you can buy a rigid shield that not only protects you from droplets, but also angry passengers.
There’s a reason why many taxis have these installed as a standard—and it wasn’t to prevent passengers from sneezing on them.
4. Take Self-defense Classes
Another way to protect yourself in the event of an attack or carjacking is to take self-defense classes. Learn some basic moves to get attackers off of you and get away from dangerous situations.
Part of this could also include lessons on how to diffuse bad situations. If you’re able to stay calm and think rationally during a crisis, you may have a better outcome than someone who loses their cool, adding gas to the fire.
5. Trust Your Instincts
If you get a bad feeling about any situation, trust your gut and get out of it as quickly as possible. If something seems wrong as you’re waiting to pick up your passenger, cancel the ride and drive to a location where you feel safe. If you get a delivery request out to the middle of a field or some other remote location without a house or business that looks like it’s open, cancel and move on.
If a passenger won’t get out of your car and you feel threatened, it could be helpful to learn where some local police precincts are in your city. You don’t need to memorize all of them, but maybe some key ones in areas where you drive most frequently. While involving the police is usually the last thing most people want to do, if it’s your safety on the line, you must protect yourself.
No one should have to fear for their life or safety while driving or delivering, but the world is a crazy, unpredictable place. Do your best to stay safe out there.
Drivers, what do you think of our suggestions on how Uber, Lyft and other gig companies could make driving safer for couriers and rideshare drivers? What’s the number one thing you think Uber, Lyft and other gig companies should do to make driving safer?
-Paula @ RSG