Ride Share Personal Safety

When discussing personal safety during a Ride Share, we will discuss the critical perspective of the safety of the passenger or passengers. 

While violent crimes do happen where the driver is targeted, most of the items that make the news are crime stories related to the passengers. Curious readers can just conduct an internet search to see the tally of crimes attributed to Uber and Lyft Ride share drivers against their passengers or the public at large.  Here are just a few headlines involving aberrant Ride share drivers as suspects:

  • March 2019:  The homicide of a female college student near the University of South Carolina who got into a car she thought was her Uber driver;
  • March 2019: A man in Tuscaloosa, AL was arrested for kidnapping when he was found to be pretending to be a ride-sharing Uber driver.  There was an unconscious university student in the back seat of the fake Uber driver’s car; 
  • November 2018:  An Uber driver was arrested in Boston for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman he had as a fare;
  • February 2016:  An Uber driver was arrested in Michigan for six counts of murder.  The driver was deliberately shooting and killing innocent people he saw on the street between picking up his Uber fares.

This growing list of crimes illustrate that a vast amount and different types of violent crimes have been committed by Ride Share drivers.  As to what their respective companies can do to reduce or eliminate these criminals and criminal acts are a different story.  The focus for the remainder of this piece will be what perspective Ride share customers can do to prevent a crime from occurring, and what they can do should they find themselves in the role as the victim of a crime during the commission of the crime.

Verify that the ride share driver is in fact the specific ride share that you ordered.  Confirm with the driver by asking the driver to provide your name and other relevant ride share facts.

Accountability is a helpful element to assist you should something bad happens, people know when to start being concerned and where to look.  When you decide to take a ride share, have your cell phone out and camera ready as the vehicle arrives.  Take a few moments before you get in to take a photo of the vehicle and license plate.  Text that photo to a couple of your friends.  Next, take a quick photo of the driver as he is seated inside the vehicle and text that photo to a couple of friends as well.  If the driver objects, you don’t have to take the ride.  Send that driver on their way and wait for another ride. 

You can also telephone a friend or relative after you have texted the vehicle and driver information and keep them on the line for the entire ride. 

Time is also an important element.  The friends you shared the photos of the ride share driver and vehicle with will have a time stamp of the time they received your text.  Once you safely arrive, you can exit the ride share and enter the safe environment of your destination.  Once safely inside, text your friends and let them know you arrived safe.  And, just in case your ride share turns into a stalker, you will have photos of the driver and their vehicle.

If anything were to occur during the ride, the person on the other end of the line would be able to immediately notify police and provide valuable suspect vehicle and suspect information.  Having police notified will not relieve you from having the responsibility to protect yourself.  You still may need to fight to survive the attack!

Accountability will apply to you as well.  When you are out in public, never allow yourself to become so intoxicated or impaired with alcoholic beverages or mind/mood altering (legal or illegal) substances that you are unable to make decisions involving your own personal safety.  Things may happen so fast that you may need every one of your mental and physical faculties to mitigate a crime as it is unfolding. Being intoxicated or impaired will greatly inhibit you and affect your thought processes as well as your reaction time.

Awareness and keen observations are one of the most important aspects to any crime prevention.  Knowing criminal intending to commit a crime either plan nearly every aspect of their crime, or the opportunity unfolds in front of them and they take that moment to release their inner compulsion.  While you are not a mind reader, sometimes there are things that you might just observe that lead you to the feeling that something is not right.

Use all your senses, and intuition.  If something does not look right or feel right, honor your instincts and always make decisions on the side for your safety.  Rather than hop right into the Ride share that just arrived, spend just a few minutes to converse with the driver.  While doing so, you are looking inside the passenger compartment for anything that does not look right.  Look for the presence of potential weapons or things that could bind you.  Know that you are getting into this person’s environment and they will be very familiar with what’s inside where you will be a stranger to their environment.  Notice the demeanor of the driver.  Does the driver appear to have any overt signs of being intoxicated or impaired?  Is there a smell of any type of alcoholic beverages or the odor of using marijuana on or about the interior of the vehicle? 

Self-Defense Gadgets are never a good idea.  The market is flooded with the latest and what their individual company thinks is the greatest gadget ever.  I would define a gadget as any device to be used for your personal safety that is designed to inflict pain or draw attention of others to an in-progress attack.  

Some of the most common types of gadgets are of the sound, impact or the chemical variety.  For sound, there are whistles or air shriek alarms.  While some of these types of devices can be very loud, they are not designed to stop the attack, but to draw attention to the crime by alerting others.  We have now all become so accustomed to the noise of a car alarm, most people may not even look that direction to determine the source of the loud noise.

As for the impact types of gadgets, there are devices that once deployed can scratch the suspect, but cause no significant injury to force the suspect to stop their violent actions.  Ask yourself if you were using this device on a hard core violent offender, would they be deterred or just further angered and fueled by your application of an ineffective tool.  There are tasers on the market, but these have specific applications that may require a greater distance and time before the attack occurs in which they can be applied.  A stun gun is also within the gadget category, but this tool is to be used up close and personal.  This means your suspect is almost right on top of you in order for the stun gun to be used for the most effective application. 

As for any chemical spray, if you deploy pepper spray, mace or any other substance remember you may be inside a closed in vehicle or in very close proximity with your suspect.  Once you spray that chemical inside a vehicle, the entire vehicle will be contaminated and permeated with the contents.  Secondly, if you have to resort to any type of wresting or close combat with the suspect after you have deployed a chemical spray, you will also be wearing some of the contents of your chemical spray. Thirdly, you will have to fight through the effects of the chemical spray to overcome your attacker.

Travel with friends from place to place.  The fact that one or more people are with you and sober may be one more thing in your favor.  If a suspect were to begin their violent crime, it is always harder to control more than one person. 

Have a code word that any of you or anyone else in your group can use to signal to the others of your group that something is about to go off the rails. Select a code word (or name) in advance you agree on that could fit within the context of a normal conversation. Using a word like bananas may not fit into any normal everyday conversation. It could be a middle name that once you use the name and insert it into the conversation/sentence uttered, you and your buddy are now ready for whatever you may need to do.  Your code word alerts your friends that there is a problem and for them to change gears mentally to prepare for whatever may be forthcoming. Remember, your code word should alert others in your party to danger, but not tip off the suspect that you are aware of danger and ready to take action if necessary. Those extra few seconds or minutes can work in your favor!

Have a plan for what you may need to do should your ride deteriorate into a situation where your personal safety is or may be at risk. Decide based on seating positions who will do what, when, to whom, for how long and any other aspects of self-defense.  This includes what the role is for each friend you have with you during the ride share. 

For example, if you have a friend in the front seat and the vehicle is mobile on city streets, their initial task may be to grab the driver’s wheel and pull it to the right or left into a parked vehicle. This is best done as the driver is or has just completed a turn. The intent is to purposely have a slower speed crash, causing the suspect’s vehicle to become immobilized, drawing attention to the crash and possibly allowing the victims to escape the suspect’s vehicle. The friends should be alert to the impending vehicle crash and brace themselves accordingly.

For the passenger or passengers sitting in the backseat, one person sitting closest to the left rear passenger’s seat could place the suspect in a rear choke hold.  This hold should render the driver (suspect) unconscious and allow the passenger’s to depart.  Learn how to apply this move!

The ability to know practical Self Defense techniques that can be used to defend yourself any violent attack.  No matter who your suspect is, attacking the throat and eyes are vulnerable areas that can cause serious injuries to the suspect.  Whatever technique is used should incapacitate the suspect and allow you to escape.  Learn how to disarm a person armed with a handgun or a knife.  These techniques and skill are perishable and must be maintained as they can and will fade into your memory if not kept fresh.

If your driver is purposely taking you against your will into a dangerous or isolated area where you fear for your safety.  First, demand the driver to stop at any place you deem as safer than the one he/she is attempting to take you.  Look for places where there are many people present at nearly any time of day or night.  Places such as the front doors of a large 24-hour store, a convenience store and hospital emergency entrances are just a few places where no matter what day or time of day, you should see people who might intervene and/or witness the disturbance you are about to create.

If the driver refuses to stop at one of those places, now you know what situation you have and that if the driver has his/her way, it will get much worse for you.  It is at that time that you must initiate a devastating, unrelenting and effective physical attack on the driver, regardless of if the vehicle is mobile or stationary.  Remember to attack their eyes or throat!

In the event the suspect produces a firearm or knife, you have to make a decision as to whether you feel the suspect will allow you to live after he/she has committed their crime.  Remember that criminals lie! If the suspect has asked you to cooperate and you will be released after the crime has occurred, that may not be the absolute truth.  It is at that moment that you must make the decision to do whatever it takes to survive!  This may mean submitting to a crime in the hopes the suspect will release you as he/she promised, or taking the violent and effective physical actions necessary to defend yourself right then and there.  Always and everywhere – be ready!

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