Yes, You’re Going Places. Let’s Make Sure They’re The Right Ones: E-Hailing Safety Tips. Let’s Go.
We’re going to start this piece with a horror story, although maybe not one that you are expecting. Brace yourself anyway.
Just a few years ago, when you needed a lift from someone that wasn’t your dad (shoutout to the OG Uber drivers out there) you used to have to call your local taxi service, like ON THE PHONE, and talk to another human being ON THE PHONE to book one. Talk about nightmare fuel.
The invention of e-hailing and rideshare services, as the new version of a taxi (or dad), one where you don’t have to *shudders* talk to anyone, pretty much changed the transportation game for a lot of people globally, and here in South Africa too.
- Had an extra beer on a Friday. Time to Uber, my friend.
- Want to have a girl’s night out? Uber.
- Can’t find your car keys (FYI, you left them in your last Uber). Uber.
- In a foreign country and don’t understand the mess of coloured lines that is a map of their transport system? Yay for Uber.
However, talk to an e-hailing passenger and undoubtedly they know somebody that knows somebody that had something awful happen to someone they know.
Talk to a driver. And boy do they have a story or two for you too. In fact just last week Marshall Security assisted an e-hailing service driver who had been hijacked and stabbed. Spoiler alert, he’s okay and we got his vehicle back.
Uber supplied us with some in-depth responses to our safety questions, give it a read to put your mind at ease.
The point we’re making is that while e-hailing is quick and efficient, feels well organised, safe, and seems well tracked, it is not without its caveats.
When Things Takes a (Wrong) Turn…
In answer to growing concern within the industry in SA, e-hailing companies have introduced a number of safety measures. But is it enough?
Passengers have been held up at pick up, have had mobile devices and ID’s stolen, and have then on occasion been forced into the vehicle where further assault has taken place. Then on other occasions everything seems perfectly normal until your driver turned left instead of right (you may have had one or two, but you still know the way home) and doors are suddenly centrally locked. Sometimes victims have had to fling themselves from moving vehicles, as the ‘safer’ alternative to whatever is about to happen next.
Women in particular have fallen victim to sexual harassment and abuse, far more frequently than anyone would like to admit.
Where Does This Leave Us, Apart From Phoning Our Dads For a Lift Home Instead?
- Most of the bigger service providers like Uber and Bolt have special SOS/Emergency buttons within their apps, which can be hit if you are feeling uncomfortable or if things have taken a literal ‘turn’ that doesn’t feel right (or left. Ba dum tss). But this is of course only helpful if you haven’t been accosted already and had your phone stolen.
- In addition, drivers have to pass background checks and receive official police clearance certificates before they are allowed to provide their services.
- Selfie verification, which prompts drivers to take frequent snaps of themselves and upload them pretty instantly (upon platform request) helps to ensure the driver behind the wheel is the same as the one shown on the app.
While the above are all appropriately helpful measures, a little bit of awareness on the part of passengers is also necessary. So here we go – a list of rideshare safety precautions.
- Always try and share a ride (preferably with people you know, obviously).
- Check them out. Make sure that the driver’s face, registration, vehicle make and model all match what is supplied on the app.
- Share your live location with someone that knows you are on the move. Most well-known e-hailing apps have this feature built in, so you just need to share that link provided. It also supplies details on the driver and vehicle model, registration and make. Plus, all trips are tracked and recorded, which is a solid win.
- Rate your drivers please! Honestly. If you weren’t comfortable or happy, that is pretty important information and the star rating will help others make different, potentially safer, choices.
- Take note of your surroundings. Especially if you are leaving a local hotspot. Opportunistic criminals are on the lockout for preoccupied people with their phones out waiting for their rides. They are easy target for criminals. And can also turn the driver into a target. That’s not cool.
- You are entitled to cancel and request a new trip is something doesn’t feel right. So, do that.
- Check the boot. It should be empty. Pretend you have to put a bag in there if you feel awkward about it, but most drivers are used to this by now and may even hop out to show you without you requesting it.
- Make sure those doors are never locked via central locking and that the child lock on your door isn’t on.
- Make use of the SOS button on the app. Or you can hit our Marshall Cell Panic Button too.
- Avoid waiting in the street. Stay inside until your app shows that your driver has arrived at your pickup point.
- If you need to contact you driver, use the app. It’s an anonymised calling feature on a private network, so neither of you are actually sharing your numbers.
- If you use Uber, a pin verification, which both you and the driver have to provide, can help ensure that you are in the correct vehicle.
- RideCheck is another handy Uber feature which can help detect if a trip has had an unexpectedly long stop. If so, they will check on you and offer help.
- Hot extra tip. In order for the app features to provide assistance you have to actually use it. i.e. If you have just taken a trip and landed in a new city, for business, work or whatever, don’t be persuaded by the shouting drivers waving signs at you and trying and help with your luggage. It may seem easy, plus you’re exhausted, and their ‘out of app’ rate seems great, but if you say ‘yes’ the potential for things to go wrong has increased by a dramatic margin.
- Bonus point. Uber Eats. Since food transportation is obviously important to some of us too *raises hand*. Don’t pay in cash – you are turning both yourself and the driver into potential targets.
We would like to humbly suggest that you share the above list with everyone and anyone that you know. Perhaps even chat to Harold your goldfish, the stranger in the club and your grandmother Pam. We all have to take e-hailing options at some point, and it is better to be informed, so that we can make better choices.
Other than that, now may be a great time to download the Marshall Mobile Panic App *shameless plug*, as an extra form of defense. And save our number, you know the one… you can Call Us In Case of Anything on it.