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Ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft have become a staple part of our vacations, a night on the town and, for some, getting to and from work. These services have completely changed how transportation works in cities. Ridesharing services allow users to hail a ride through an app. And there is an added convenience for passengers in need of transportation. However, these services also present dangers for both riders and drivers. Passengers risk everything from car crashes and assaults to identity theft and rape. 

No matter how much you trust the services provided, it’s always possible to be a victim of a terrible situation. While people shouldn’t do bad things, it’s equally important that we remain vigilant in protecting ourselves and our loved ones.

What is ridesharing?

The basic concept of ridesharing is using an online platform, typically through an app on a smartphone, to connect with on-demand drivers. Rideshare drivers use their privately owned vehicles to facilitate transportation needs. Drivers set their schedules and can work as little or as much as they want. 

The entire transaction is done through the app so that no cash is exchanged. When signing up for the app, riders have to put their credit or debit card information into the app. The app automatically deducts the cost of the ride from the rider’s card. Further, at the end of the trip, the app allows the rider to tip. 

Problems plaguing Uber and Lyft

Ridesharing services receive plenty of criticism, including everything from decreasing the pay of its drivers to increased traffic fatalities.

Every day, we see headlines about the dangers that both passengers and drivers face. Both passengers and riders have been attacked, raped, or robbed. There is also a serious risk of getting into the wrong car with a predator or picking up the wrong passenger with predatory intentions.

Do ridesharing services do background checks?

You may remember a story from 2016 when Uber and Lyft left Austin, Texas. The city and the ridesharing companies could not agree about how background checks would take place. The city of Austin wanted to require fingerprints for prospective drivers that ran through an FBI database. Naturally, Uber and Lyft claimed the check was too much and should be reversed. The debacle ended a year later when the Texas legislature passed a law that removes the controversial fingerprint requirement.

As of 2017, to operate in Texas, ride-hailing services have must comply with the following to conduct business in the state: 

  • Obtain a permit from the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation
  • Conduct annual local, state and national criminal background checks on drivers

What is Uber’s background check policy?

However, shortly after returning to Austin in the spring of 2018, Uber announced a new company-wide policy that would call for annual background checks. Further, the company hired a company to track criminal arrest records on an ongoing basis. Before this policy, the company was only conducting background checks at the initial hire. 

What is Lyft’s background check policy?

Lyft uses a third-party company to conduct a criminal background check, which searches national and county-level databases and courthouse records for adult convictions. Lyft reviews the results and assesses against applicable regulations. According to its website, if the following are uncovered in your background check, the company may bar you from driving for it:

  • Presence on the National Sex Offender Registry database
  • Convicted of a violent crime such as homicide, kidnapping, human trafficking, arson, burglary, carjacking, robbery or aggravated assault
  • Convicted of a sexual offense (rape, sexual assault, child pornography)
  • DUI convictions
  • Drug convictions

The company’s website says that different jurisdictions may have laws that require it to have more stringent ineligible requirements

Driver’s License Requirements

Rideshare drivers don’t have the same license requirements as taxi drivers. For example, ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft only require their drivers to carry a standard vehicle operator’s license. On the other hand, taxis require drivers to carry commercial licenses.

How can I stay safe during my rideshare?

Whether you’re putting a friend in a car after a night out or using a ride-hailing service from the airport, staying safe in all situations means using common sense.

Plan ahead

If you know that you are going to need a rideshare, be sure to familiarize yourself with the app. Many ridesharing service apps have safety features built into them as well as what their policies are. 

Request and wait for your ride inside

You never know who is watching. That is why you should minimize that you’re standing outside alone or with your phone in your hand. For your safety, it’s best to wait inside until the app shows that your driver has arrived. 

Double-check your ride

Ridesharing apps display you a car vehicle’s details such as the car make, model, color and even the license plate. If the vehicle or driver doesn’t match the information displayed in your app, do not get in the car. 

Ask the driver to confirm your name

The best way to know you’re getting into the vehicle of the legitimate driver is by asking them to verify your name before you get in the car. Your driver will see your first name in the app and you’re driver’s name should also be displayed on your end. To safely exchange names, you can ask, “who are you here to pick up?” 

Because drivers have also been attacked, your driver may also seek peace of mind by also asking you to confirm their name.

Sit in the backseat

Sitting in the backseat is safer than sitting in the front for two major reasons. The first reason is that it always you to exit the vehicle on either side of the car should you need to do so. The second reason is that it provides a barrier of space between you and the driver. 

Wear your seatbelt

Many people believe they don’t need to wear their seatbelts in the backseat. However, even with the best, most aggressive driver behind the wheel, he or she can’t control other drivers on the road. With that in mind, always wearing your seatbelt. 

Use the share route option

Once you’re in your ride, many apps have the option to share your trip and details like the driver’s name, photo, license plate and location with a friend or family member. Once you’ve shared your trip status, your loved one will receive a text or push notification that tracks your trip and ETA.

Actively protect your personal information

There’s no reason that your ridesharing driver will ever contact information. In fact, bother Uber and Lyft have apps that anonymize phone numbers should the driver or rider need to call one another.

Trust your gut

How many times have you had a feeling, ignored it and on hindsight realized how right you were? If you get a bad feeling about your ridesharing driver, trust yourself. This feeling can arise even after you’ve gotten in the vehicle. If you’re ever in an emergency situation call the police immediately. 

Keep an eye on your GPS tracker

Many of us have a tendency to get in the Uber or Lyft and either put our phones away or close out the app and head over to our social media website of choice. 

Travel with intoxicated friends

Ridesharing is a great option for those who want to go out and imbibe. However, sometimes a person can go out and have a few too many. Riding alone can present certain dangers for intoxicated solo riders. There are reports of drivers perpetrating rapes against riders alone.

Protecting Yourself with The Carlson Law Firm

As ridesharing services become more entrenched in our society, these services carry certain risks. Anything from auto accidents to assaults can occur during or after an Uber or Lyft ride. If you suffered any injuries while using a ridesharing service, you might be entitled to compensation for the medical bills, pain, suffering, and even future medical procedures. At The Carlson Law Firm, we can help you prove who is at fault for your injuries. Our skilled team of attorneys will thoroughly investigate your situation and build a case that gets you the best recovery possible. 

Contact us as soon as possible for your free consultation. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

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