Traditionally, when Americans needed to get from Point A to Point B by car without driving themselves, they would hail a taxicab. This system had several limitations, however. First, one had to know the phone number of a cab company, call them, give the dispatcher their exact address, and hope that the driver would arrive in a reasonable time. Second, many cabs were older vehicles that often lacked modern comforts. And third, traditional taxicabs were often expensive and only accepted cash payments. Now, in the smartphone era, consumers have a more convenient way to get around that is known as ridesharing.
Ridesharing allows a user to use his or her smartphone to summon a private driver to take them where they want to go in the driver’s own personal automobile by entering their starting location and ending location into a ridesharing app. Ridesharing has a number of improvements over traditional taxicabs, such as:
- Cost: Ridesharing is often significantly cheaper than taxis and users know how much their journey will cost up front.
- Convenience: Ridesharing is arranged through a smartphone app that knows the user’s location via GPS, obviating the need to talk to a dispatcher or provide an exact address. Additionally, all payment for ridesharing is completed automatically through in-app credit card transactions, eliminating the need to carry cash or tip drivers.
- Certainty: Once a user requests a ride, they can see their driver’s exact location on a map, letting them know where the driver is and how long they will have to wait.
While ridesharing is truly a marvel, it also has a few drawbacks. For example, most ridesharing drivers are not professional drivers and do not have to complete any formal training to start accepting rides. The ridesharing industry is also very lightly regulated, which means that there is often no one to turn to except for the ridesharing companies themselves if something goes wrong. Additionally, vehicle maintenance for ridesharing is the responsibility of the driver, who may or may not be diligent about keeping their cars in the best shape.
In this post, we will cover some of the most serious risks that are inherent in ridesharing and a few tips on how to stay safe when you utilize ridesharing.
Ridesharing Passenger Safety
The foremost concern for most ridesharing users is whether using the service is safe. Unlike traditional cab drivers, most ridesharing drivers do not complete any formal training before they begin accepting passengers or have to register with any governmental authority to do so. This means that, when you get into a ridesharing vehicle, you are essentially accepting a ride from a random stranger with a car. Thus, you are completely at the mercy of that driver and his or her driving ability.
While the vast majority of ridesharing drivers have very good safety records and pose no risks to their riders, there have been a few cases of rideshare driver misconduct, including:
- An Uber driver who ran a red light, resulting in a fatal crash
- An Uber driver who killed six people in a shooting spree between picking up passengers
- A Lyft driver who was accused of assaulting two passengers
- A Lyft driver who allegedly kidnapped a passenger
Despite these and other incidents, ridesharing companies do have procedures in place to weed out unqualified or dangerous drivers. For example, all Uber drivers must pass a background and driving record check, be at least 21 years old, and have an in-state insurance policy as a condition of employment. Lyft drivers must comply with a number of similar conditions. Most ridesharing companies also utilize a rating system that allows all riders to rate their drivers. If a driver’s rating drops below a certain threshold, the driver is barred from accepting any more rides. However, you should also be aware that these procedures are not foolproof at eliminating undesirable drivers.
Rideshare Insurance Concerns
Another major concern for rideshare users is insurance and whether they will be covered in the event of an accident. When ridesharing first appeared several years ago, ridesharing drivers were only covered by their employer’s insurance policy while a passenger was in the car. This led to a number of incidents in which rideshare drivers got into accidents while they were on their way to pick up a passenger and the victim was left without compensation. After a series of lawsuits, most rideshare companies now provide their drivers with insurance coverage at all times while they are logged in to the company’s app. The amount of this coverage varies depending on whether a passenger is in the vehicle at the time of the accident, but all drivers, passengers, and third parties are covered.
Safety Tips for Rideshare Users
Even though ridesharing is generally a safe, economical, and convenient way to get around, you never want to let your guard down when you are accepting a ride from a stranger in their personal automobile. Thus, below are a few tips for using ridesharing services safely:
- Plan ahead: Before you request a ride, familiarize yourself with the safety features of the app so that you know how to use them
- Request your ride inside: Avoid spending unnecessary time outside alone with your phone in your hand. Instead, wait inside until the app shows that your driver has arrived.
- Get in the right car: Before you get in the car, check that license plate, driver photo, and driver name all match what’s listed in the app. Never get in a car with a driver who claims to be a rideshare driver and offers a free ride.
- Sit in the backseat: If you are alone, sit in the backseat. This ensures that you can safely exit the vehicle on either side.
- Share your trip details with someone: Most ridesharing apps allow you to share your driver’s name, photo, license plate, and location with a friend through the app so that they can see where you are.
- Protect your personal information: There’s no need to share your phone number or any other contact information with a rideshare driver.
- Follow your gut: Trust your instincts and use your best judgment when using ridesharing. If you ever feel like you are in an emergency situation, call 911.
Contact a Ridesharing Car Accident Attorney
If you have been injured by a rideshare driver, whether it was in an accident or if it was the result of driver misconduct, contact an Uber car accident attorney at (305) 964-8806 or online today.