By Summer Stephan
As your district attorney, I’m committed to increasing communication and accessibility between the DA’s Office and you, the community. One way I have been doing that is through this monthly column, where I provide consumer tips on public safety matters.
This month I want to remind readers about staying safe when using Uber or Lyft or any app that connects you with strangers. We all enjoy the way technology has opened the world to us and provided life-changing conveniences. But, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security just because something is popular.
There are bad actors in every line of business who do not make up the majority, but whose behavior tarnishes the reputation of the industry. The same goes for Uber or Lyft. On one end of the spectrum, riders may end up with a rude driver. But on the extreme end, the ride could end in sexual assault, robbery, or worse: death.
A case of mistaken identity can turn into a huge risk when inadvertently getting into a vehicle you think is an Uber or Lyft but is actually a predator. A dramatic and gut-wrenching example of this occurred recently when a South Carolina college student was stabbed to death after accidentally getting into a car she thought was an Uber.
Before you hop into that car without giving it a second thought, remember these tips:
- Make sure you are getting into the right car. Check the license plate, make and model of the car, which the Uber and Lyft app provide after booking the ride.
- Ask the driver to confirm your name before getting in the car so you know you are getting in the right car. Also, ask the driver for his or her name to confirm it is the same as the name displayed in the app.
- If possible, stay inside until your driver arrives. Waiting outside with your phone in your hand could signal to fake Uber or Lyft drivers that you are a target.
- Ride in the back seat, especially when riding alone. This gives you better access to a safe exit and provides personal space between you and the driver.
- Use the ‘share trip status’ in Uber or the ‘send ETA’ feature in Lyft to let others know your location and to share your driver’s information with a friend or loved one.
- Trust your instincts. If you feel that you’re in danger, you can call 911 from the Uber or Lyft apps.
Personal safety begins with awareness. Criminals look for the easiest target, so don’t make it easy on them.
—District Attorney Summer Stephan has dedicated nearly 30 years to serving justice and victims of crime as prosecutor. She is a national leader in fighting sex crimes and human trafficking and in creating smart and fair criminal justice solutions and restorative justice practices that treat the underlying causes of addiction and mental illness and that keep young people from being incarcerated.