For people who aren’t drivers, rideshare driving seems easy and seamless. As drivers, we know the real story behind picking up passengers, getting through traffic efficiently, and making our cars smell good after the last passenger’s fast food smelled it up. It’s nice to have someone in your corner who knows what you’re experiencing as a driver, and today we have a guest post from Bryant Greening of LegalRideshare, the only law firm in the US dedicated to Uber and Lyft accident and injury claims – and fellow driver.
SMACK! My head almost hit the ceiling when the bellboy slapped the trunk of my SUV. “Uber’s can’t wait here,” the man shouted, as he waved me off the hotel property. Shamed and shaken, I drove away, still waiting for my first fare.
As I turned out of the hotel roundabout, I thought of the client who first challenged me to drive. How can you represent a group of people when you’ve never walked a mile in their shoes, he asked. I hadn’t driven more than 500 feet and I already had a better understanding of the job.
Before April 15, 2018, I fancied myself an authority on all things rideshare. I quickly realized I didn’t know squat. There are many misconceptions when it comes to rideshare driving: it can’t be “that hard”, it’s “not a big deal” if you don’t drive, Uber/Lyft have your back if something happens.
That’s not even taking into account everything new drivers don’t think about, like what happens if they get into an accident while rideshare driving? Who has their back – if anyone?
Since co-founding LegalRideshare, my life has centered around Uber and Lyft. I’ve counseled hundreds of drivers on everything from accidents and injuries to insurance and dashcams. I’ve spent thousands of hours staying current on industry news and trends. I’ve sipped coffee and broken bread (okay, donuts) with drivers in airport parking lots.
Becoming a driver myself taught me a lot and gave me a better understanding of what it’s like to be behind the wheel – the good, the bad, the fun and the challenges. Here, I’ll share three things I’ve learned as a driver and how driving has helped me become a better advocate for other drivers.
Related article: Essential gear every rideshare driver should have
Communicating with Passengers is Not As Easy As it Sounds
There’s nothing like the first time a stranger steps into your car. In an instant, you go from private citizen to personal driver. Just hours earlier, my daughter snacked on Cheerios as we drove to swim class. Now, a twenty-something silently scrolled through Instagram in the same backseat.
Speaking of the twenty-something, I thought I’d appreciate a silent passenger. In actuality, it was weird. The longer we sat without speaking, the more doubt I had in my abilities. Am I a terrible conversationalist? Am I driving like a wuss? Did my daughter stuff a half-eaten banana between the seats? My insecurities screamed loudly in the silent car.
In my day job, communication is key. Clients and I are constantly talking about their doctor’s appointments, work restrictions, and physical limitations. We work to find doctors who will accommodate their insurance (or lack thereof). We strategize how to maximize their insurance claims and minimize their time off work. Without communication, the attorney-client relationship doesn’t work. Perhaps that’s why the silent passenger shocked my senses. How is this relationship going to work if we aren’t talking?
Fourteen minutes and fifty-eight seconds later, the young woman scooted out of the car, smirked and said, “Not bad for your first rodeo.” (The app tells passengers how many trips you’ve completed). With that, my insecurities eased. Her cool demeanor confirmed that, one, silence can be golden and, two, she had not encountered any rotting fruit.
The rides got more comfortable and talkative as the day went on. An aspiring comedian shared a few lines from his stand-up routine. I counseled out-of-towners on Chicago’s top chicken wing destinations (for the record, Bird’s Nest Bar in Lakeview and Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap in River North). I overheard a couple recounting their recent honeymoon adventures.
Building Relationships is Important
The connections were short but meaningful. We made each other laugh. We swapped ideas and recommendations and know-hows. Not every fare was a literal 5-star trip (although I always rated it that way), but most were enriching.
Relationship-building is my favorite part of being a personal injury lawyer. Clients come to me in a time of vulnerability. They’ve recently been through a traumatic event and are hurting physically, emotionally, and financially. The best lawyers don’t just hear their clients’ needs, they feel their pain.
Sitting in the driver’s seat, I realized rideshare isn’t all that different. There are few times in our world when strangers from varying neighborhoods, professions, cultures, races, and religions choose to interact in close proximity. In accepting an Uber fare, I was literally letting people into my life. Did we feed babies or end wars? No. But, looking back, the relationship-building was heartening and profound.
Now, when negotiating with insurance companies and defense attorneys, I can speak with first-hand knowledge about what it’s like to drive and what is taken away from clients when they are injured or taken off the road. There’s no substitute for experience – I’m a driver fighting for drivers.
Relationships are key to a driver’s success inside and outside the car. Connecting with passengers on a personal level means a more comfortable experience, better ratings and, hopefully, more tips. Networking and connecting is equally important driver-to-driver.
My clients often describe the camaraderie that develops between drivers. Need a jump? Drivers are there to help. Craving some “water cooler” chit-chat, drivers congregate at airport staging lots and venue waiting areas. Being your own boss is great, but it can get lonely without a community. Driver-passenger and driver-driver relationships keep the work exciting and fulfilling.
Rideshare Driving Isn’t Rocket Science, But It’s Not as Easy As People Think
Cruising down Clark Street toward a passenger, I started brainstorming how I’d describe the experience to my client. The actual driving was harder than I expected. I found it difficult to locate exact pick-up and drop-off spots. I was extremely self-conscious about my techniques. Did I brake too hard? How was that lane change?
The passenger interaction was solid.
The pay was discouraging. After gassing up, I only netted a few bucks (granted, I wasn’t driving during typical surge hours). I think the rideshare companies can do more to supplement high gas and insurance prices, which is a story for another day.
Additionally, one more than one occasion, I found myself halfway through a turn before realizing I misread the app – I kept turning a street too early. I also realized, after the fact, that I had curbed several yards (maybe even a half-block) from my passengers’ drop-off locations. While everyone was polite, I felt bad about the less-than-stellar-service.
The bellboy assault stuck with me. How rude!
Just then, I heard a yell from outside the car, “Hey, right here! RIGHT HERE!” I snapped to, only to see the would-be passenger flailing his arms in my rear view mirror. Welp, there goes my perfect rating.
Drivers, what were some things that surprised you about rideshare driving when you first started?
-Bryant @ RSG
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Related article: Essential gear every rideshare driver should have