“Whether you’re in the front or the back seat, buckle up when you get into the car — and please leave your guns at home,” the legal section of the Uber website read.
Uber has been the go-to for transportation regardless of the destination for those not wanting to get behind the wheel. If it’s a night out on the town with friends or the daily commute to and from work, Uber makes sure that the streets are not only safe for the rider but for the driver as well. For Mercy College student Brianna Easterling, 21, she does not travel any other way.
“If I can afford it, I’ll take an Uber,” she started. “Public transportation is super unreliable and makes multiple stops. I can get to where I need to in a timely manner.
Yet that has not stopped many cities around the world from banning Uber, citing safety concerns, most recently Sheffield, the fourth largest city in England, on Dec. 8.
Last year, the cab company uploaded safety tips for riders onto their website, with safety tips for drivers being posted shortly thereafter.
Before anyone is allowed to get behind the wheel of an Uber sponsored car, the driver must first submit to a background check and make sure that their car meets all of the company’s requirements. While getting into a car with a complete stranger would make anyone a bit uneasy, the app makes all of the driver’s information available including name, make and model of the car, license plate number, as well as a photograph of the driver so that just in case the rider feels uncomfortable during the ride or just a safety precaution, he or she can share the information with a family member or the person(s) they are on their way to meet up with.
“I always try to share my location with someone when I’m riding in an Uber. Sometimes, I even talk to someone on the phone while I’m in the car. I’m not trying to be rude to the driver but I want a witness at all times, just in case.”
The rider-driver experience can only be successful if there is a mutual level of respect between the two.
There is zero tolerance for any discrimination against drivers nor riders due to race, ethnicity, or sexual preferences. Uber maintains that they believe in equality and that they want everyone “to feel welcome when they use Uber.”
If a driver encounters a difficult rider, the lines of communication are constantly open and their actions are what will make or break the situation. The driver reserves the right to end the ride at any time if the rider becomes too much to handle, as well as calling 911 if they feel as though they are unsafe. Nicholas Brown, 23, has only driven for Uber for a little over a year but remembers an unsafe situation very vividly.
“For one of my trips, I had to pick up a man who had just gotten back from deployment in Afghanistan. I tried to ask him questions about what it was like over there but naturally, he didn’t want to talk about it. But when I asked him how many people has he killed, all he did was give me a wry smile.”
Brown felt uneasy based on the responses that he received.
“The whole time I was driving him to his destination, my stomach was in knots. He could have killed me without thinking twice when you really think about it.”
In an effort to make sure that all drivers operate Uber sponsored vehicles safely and efficiently, Uber consulted with drivers about their experiences while driving as well as law enforcement and other road safety officials to compile a list of driving safety tips. For example, the company urges the drivers to remind their riders to utilize their seat belts while riding in their cars due to the alarming rates of people being killed or severely injured by not wearing a seat belt. In 2015 alone, Uber quotes that nearly 14,000 lives were saved because the passengers wore seat belts.
Brown strives to make sure that his passengers are as comfortable and safe as possible.
“Conversation has to be the easiest way to make someone feel comfortable in your car. Some people will flat out let you know that they aren’t interested in having a conversation, but for the most part, passengers really appreciate when you make them feel welcome.”
While there is a sense of intimacy between the rider and driver, it is also encouraged that, for the safety of both parties, the rider should ride in the backseat of the car if he or she is riding solo. Personal space is something that everyone appreciates and being a backseat passenger also affords the rider the rider the right to exit the vehicle safely without any worries of encountering oncoming traffic.
“I try to keep the doors locked at all times while I’m driving. Not to keep my passenger prisoner but for safety precautions,” Brown explained. “The world today is a crazy and scary place. Who knows? Some guy could come yank your back door open while you’re sitting at a stoplight.”
Feedback from both rider and driver is something that Uber prides themselves on in order to improve the driving experience on both ends of the spectrum. Following the end of every ride with Uber, both parties are asked to fill out a brief survey reviewing their ride that night. If either person felt as though their ride could have been better, the company takes the recommendations into consideration and utilizes them to improve so that similar concerns will not arise in the future.
“I feel like rating my driver is important. Yes, the process may feel like a waste of time at first thought but in hindsight, it’s not just for my benefit. It’s for everyone who will ever step foot into that driver’s car after me,” Easterling added. “If more people took the time to share their experiences, the drivers can learn from the riders’ feedback and make the changes necessary. Nothing improves if no one speaks up.”
At Uber, safety is the company’s top priority for everyone involved. Before requesting a ride with the company, make sure to review all safety precautions provided online and keep a few details in mind.
Buckle up, give the driver the appropriate rating and most importantly, stay safe.