Winner of The Sunshine Award: The Driver Who Said No To Domestic Violence

As rideshare drivers, we are put in all kinds of situations during our shifts when we have to make instantaneous decisions that potentially could save a life.

Over the past seven years on the TNC (Transportation Network Companies) platforms, there have been several instances where things could have turned ugly.

However, as a rideshare driver, your safety is paramount. Even with all the tools coded and available in the apps, we are ultimately on our own.

🏆 Meet John Heflin, an ex-Marine from Louisville Kentucky, and our second winner of The Sunshine Award for the month of April 2023. John’s past experiences in the armed forces may have saved his rider’s life but more importantly, his grace under pressure is something we must share with our readers.

john heflin winner of the show me the extra mile sunshine award
John Heflin Winner of the SMTEMS Award
I am a rideshare driver out of Louisville, KY and I am a gig worker for companies such as Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Uber Eats, Spark, Dravier, Rover, and Turo. I started in the gig economy after I was fired from my old job in construction; My parting gift was $30,000 which paid for a nearly new (2019) Cadillac and so now I'm in the rideshare business. I was a relatively new driver when this incident happened last year but nonetheless, it had a profound impact on me.

The Trip That Changed Everything

On a late Saturday evening in May, John was on his way home.

The Forecastle Music Festival was held in Louisville that particular weekend and had been very busy driving passengers around.

He then received a trip request to pick up not far from where he was located, had a change of heart, and decided to do this one last trip.

How the Trip Started

The passengers were the account holder (AC), a friend, and another couple, four passengers in total.

The AC had given him a heads up that the other couple were bickering and arguing but he figured he was not going very far, to the 4-star rated Galt House hotel.

There were no issues at the start of the trip as the AC asked John to play some music and everyone seemed to be in good spirits.

Things Quickly Changed

Things quickly changed when the male of the married couple started to berate and demean his wife. She remained silent as the AC was trying to de-escalate the situation.

At some point, the woman who was in the passenger seat had enough and snapped back by saying “You didn’t feel that way when you choked me out this afternoon”.

John didn’t know if she was serious or not due to how quickly things were getting out of control so he asked her if she was serious. The woman then pulled back the collar on her shirt and showed him the fresh bruises on her neck.

The abuser wasn't having any of it and his verbal attacks on the woman were growing sharper. Since she was sitting next to me, she started showing me photos of the bruises, cuts and gashes she received from the regular beatings her husband gave her. She stated she was keeping them in a protected file (on her phone) in case anything ever happened to her. The husband then stated that that was going to be nothing compared to what would happen when they got back to the hotel.

How John Handled This Information

John was almost back to the Galt House hotel at this point and rather than deal with this on some dark city street he figured it would be much better to deal with this at the hotel because it was a well-lit public area and the Galt Hotel had its own on-site security detail.

What a great decision on John’s part. We always advise drivers to pull up in a well-lit gas station for safety reasons, he obviously had a plan and he was executing it. He also captured this whole ordeal on his dashcam, what a valuable tool that is for all drivers to have.

I then told the woman that when we arrived at the hotel NOT TO EXIT MY VEHICLE, NOT TO LEAVE MY CAR. I WILL TAKE YOU WHEREVER YOU NEED TO GO TO BE SAFE BUT DO NOT GET OUT OF MY CAR. She said ok and the husband was livid at this point.

Arriving at the Passenger’s Destination

The party soon arrived at the hotel and the AC left the car. The husband did not want to get out of the car because the woman was staying put.

John told the man that the ride was over, that he was now on private property and was trespassing, that he needed to exit the vehicle immediately or he would call the police.

At this point, the husband got out of the car but was standing in the crease of the doorway (with the door open) hurling insults.

The woman, perhaps from experience, had undone her seat belt. John thought she might be getting out of the car but the man suddenly lunged towards her through the back door. She spun around quickly with her back against the dash and at that moment John just put the car in drive and floored it.

The husband was left at the curb and John drove several blocks before pulling over. John asked the woman where he could take her to be safe, and after a brief conversation, she informed John that she had a sister who lived about 40 miles away.

It was already 3:30 AM but John did this without hesitation because she had asked for his help. He genuinely believed her life to be in danger.

The woman offered to pay John several times but he declined each time. He finally dropped her off at her sister’s house but on the way, the woman showed John a few pictures of her bruises from past beatings.

Dash cam image of john and his female passenger being abused
Dash Cam Image of John and his Passenger
I am submitting this because domestic violence/abuse is never ok, because sometimes we may be put into extremely dangerous situations; however, in some cases, may also present us with an incredible opportunity to make a difference in someone's life. I want women to feel safe when they enter my car.

My Conclusion

It has been truly my honor to have talked to and interviewed John our second winner of The Sunshine Award on our Youtube Channel.

John did what most drivers would not have done, he definitely went the extra mile and potentially saved a woman’s life.

A lot of people think rideshare is such a simple gig, pick up at Point A and drop off at Point B but no one will understand how difficult this job is until they personally do it.

I used to drive during the “drunk hours” due to its lucrative nature but with higher rewards come higher-risk trips.

You must have a game plan for every situation as a rideshare driver, it has to be instilled in your muscle memory. When things go sideways and the adrenaline is flowing, you have to first look out for your own safety but also make sure that your rider is taken care of.

In this particular instance, John probably went back and took a page from his Marine training, stayed calm, and handled everything like the pro that he is.

I am grateful for people like John who pay it forward without expecting anything in return, he is my hero!

john in his car he drives for rideshare
John in his car he drives for rideshare
This event weighed heavily on me for several months afterward for a multitude of reasons. First, just a couple of days after this happened, three police officers were killed in the line of duty in eastern Kentucky serving a warrant against a man for domestic violence. In the mind of a domestic abuser, the thought process is that no one or nothing is going to stand between him and their woman.


Second, I reflected upon the notion of why I was put in this spot. Of all the drivers available, I was chosen to be there. I don't know if you are a person of faith but I am, and the only conclusion I can safely draw is that God can pick the most unlikely of people to carry out his wishes. So many things had to be perfect and at the right moment in order for this rescue to work. I don't know if you believe in God or a higher power or simply karma but suffice it to say, the woman had protection that night from forces far greater than John Heflin.