While the majority of our rides as drivers will be uneventful, there may be times when you least expect it that something terrible happens. Senior RSG contributor Paula Gibbins interviews one driver who was assaulted in broad daylight by a disgruntled passenger. Here’s how Uber responded, and how drivers can protect themselves from incidents like these.
We’ve likely all had those moments where we start to feel uneasy with the person who is in our vehicle for rideshare. Is it safer to pull over and ask them to leave? Is it better to just keep going and hope for the best?
I spoke with a driver who was recently assaulted in his vehicle after asking his passenger to leave before the ride was over. Below is his experience and how Uber responded.
One Uber Driver’s Encounter with a Hostile Passenger
Our driver, who wished to remain anonymous, shares that he picked up a woman around lunchtime in June. While initially driver “Ed” felt something was amiss, he picked her up anyway and thought this would be a quick ride to get over with quickly.
It started going downhill when Ed avoided an expressway due to construction delays. When the woman expressed anger that he was taking a different route, he explained that this way would be faster and pointed out the construction delays.
At this point, she began screaming at him, so he pulled over near a park and asked her to leave. As Ed watched her leave, the passenger opened his door and smacked him hard across the face with an object. Ed doesn’t know if it was a phone or something else, as he immediately began bleeding profusely.
Ed used the emergency button in the Uber app to call 911, and when the police arrived, they were luckily able to apprehend the woman, who hadn’t gotten very far. Ed decided to press charges and went to the hospital.
How Did Uber Handle This Emergency?
While Ed was talking to the police, Uber tried calling him since he’d used his in-app emergency button. But, since he was busy, he didn’t answer those calls.
They tried him one more time at the hospital where he was able to answer. “[Uber support] asked me some questions,” said Ed. “She had me tell her what was the situation, what happened and all that.”
From there, the Uber rep said they had already suspended the user’s account and that they would be conducting an investigation and Uber would get back to him within 5 days.
Unfortunately, it has now been over two weeks and Ed has not heard from Uber. In addition, the number Uber support called from no longer works.
Ed even reached out via text message to Uber’s support to follow up. In a nutshell, he explains that he was the driver who got attacked by a passenger on June 26, 2020 and had received a phone call from Uber and expected to hear back from them by now. He listed the court date and case number that he gave the person over the phone as a reference.
Ed asked for Uber to contact him as soon as possible so he could feel more prepared for the court date.
The only response he’s gotten from Uber as of the writing of this article read:
“Thank you for taking the time to report this. We are committed to a safe experience for everyone on the Uber app. We have already restricted this user’s access to the Uber app and are investigating this situation further.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns regarding this report.”
Basically, it reiterates what he’d been told on the phone. How long will Uber be “investigating” and when will they actually get back to him with any kind of real response?
With nothing from Uber to go on, Ed called the Chicago bar association and was referred to an attorney. The attorney basically said, you don’t need a lawyer since you already filed a complaint with the police.
Pro-tip: If you’re injured while driving for Uber or Lyft, reach out to our recommended Uber injury lawyer Bryant Greening of LegalRideshare. Learn more here.
Ed was told to just turn up for his court hearing and have a price in mind for how much he’d ask her to pay in restitution and that he’d be supplied with a state attorney who would cover his case.
Ed was hoping that Uber would have been able to tell him that basic information, or give him some guidance on what his next steps could be. Something like this had never happened to him before. Ed was in the dark on what he would need to bring to court or how the whole process would work, and he was looking to Uber to help him with that.
Tips for Staying Safe as Drivers
One big thing that Ed has decided to do is buy a dash camera. He didn’t have one prior to this incident, but he definitely sees the value in it now.
Sometimes dash cams can act as a deterrent and sometimes it can be the eye witness to the assault—or whatever the incident may be—to help back up your story in case your side is not believed.
Ed also wants to give this advice:
“You need to learn how to read body language before you let them in. I’m pretty good at that.
My strategy when I’m picking up someone especially in an area where you feel unsure about. Don’t stop right in front of the destination. I try to overshoot it a few feet and then watch, looking back through the rear windshield or through the mirrors and start to read people.
That couple of seconds, you get a lot of information. If you feel something is wrong at the very beginning, just drive away. Don’t even think twice. You have to kind of follow your instinct.”
Ignoring your gut instinct or a red flag could lead to an incident like what Ed had to endure.
“It’s better to avoid it,” said Ed. “Even if it’s a cancellation on your record.”
Obviously, Uber dropped the ball in this situation in our opinion. They knew exactly what had happened since you can see ‘Ed’s’ e-mails to customer support above he clearly explained that he was assaulted by his passenger, he was pressing charges, there was a court date assigned, etc and Uber’s response was basically ‘we’ve deactivated the rider’. That’s not acceptable to me and what’s worse is that there isn’t really much a driver can do in this type of situation.
It would be great if Uber provided some compensation on a case by case basis, legal assistance or even advice, or evidence to help support Ed’s case. Or how about just a phone call to check in on the driver, that would be the decent thing to do and it wouldn’t cost them a penny.
We reached out to Uber for comment on this incident and for tips on what drivers can expect from Uber. An Uber spokesperson responded as follows:
“Uber’s support team is available 24/7 and will work directly with drivers on reports of this nature to help provide answers and support.”
In addition, Uber informed us that incidents like this are handled by Uber’s third party insurance, which should be in touch with drivers for further support.
Readers, has something like this ever happened to you while driving? If so, how did you handle it and how did Uber or Lyft handle it?
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-Paula @ RSG