Taking Uber, Lyft? Read these safety tips before getting in the car

City dwellers, students, travelers and people without cars are relying more and more on ride-hailing services such as Uber or Lyft to get from one place to the next.

»RELATED: Is Uber safe? People questioning after reports of recent assaults

But as on-demand services have become more widely used, crime, too, has become a harsh reality.  

Due to the rise in reported incidents, police and ride-share companies are warning passengers to be aware of the potential risks and take precautions.

»FROM DECEMBER: Reports of rape, sexual assault climb on cruises and ride-shares

Early Tuesday, a shooting inside a ride-share vehicle leaving the Diamond Club in Atlanta sent multiple people running across the Downtown Connector. A 21-year-old man was transported to Grady Memorial Hospital with multiple gunshot wounds. He was listed in fair condition.

Across the state, drivers for Uber and Lyft have been accused of several violent crimes, including a homicide and physical and sexual assaults. Sometimes, the crimes involve people posing as ride-share drivers, making it more difficult to find the suspect.

In December 2019, Uber issued a safety report that revealed more than 3,000 alleged sexual assaults had occurred on its rides in 2018. 

»FROM 2019: Uber safety report reveals more than 3,000 alleged sexual assaults on rides in 2018

That figure included 235 alleged rapes across the company's 1.3 billion rides. The ride-hailing company noted that drivers and riders were both attacked and that some assaults occurred between riders.

According to reports compiled by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2018, eight alleged assaults involving ride-share services happened in metro Atlanta and Athens. But with so many different police jurisdictions throughout metro Atlanta — and the possibility that some crimes were never reported — that number could be higher.

Here are some safety tips for passengers when using a ride-share service:

Photo: BRANDEN CAMP/SPECIAL The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

1. Confirm the driver’s identity

There have been several cases of people posing as drivers, but Uber and Lyft offer passengers details such as the driver’s name, their photo and car type.

According to Campbell Matthews, a Lyft representative, the company also offers an “amplified” way to identify your driver.

Lyft drivers have a bright, color-changing pill-shaped device (called the Amp) made of multiple LED lights on their dashboards.

The color in your Lyft app will match the color of the Amp in your driver’s car. 

Before getting in the car, make sure you’re getting in the right one.

»RELATED: Uber driver charged with assault on pregnant passenger

2. Check driver’s rating

Just like you’re less likely to sign a lease on an apartment known for its low management or maintenance ratings and reviews, rideshare ratings can be used to determine the quality and safety of your ride.

Rideshare apps give passengers their potential driver’s ratings ahead of the car’s arrival, so if you’re uncomfortable with the rating, cancel your ride and call another.

3. Share your trip details

According to Uber, you’re able to tap “Share status” in the mobile app and share your driver’s name, photo, license plate and location with a friend or family member.

They can then track your trip without downloading the Uber app.

»RELATED: Uber plans to take ride-sharing off the ground

Lyft users can tap the “Send ETA” icon on the bottom bar, which will send a text message to family or friends with a link to your current route and location.

If your ride-hailing service doesn’t offer a quick status or ETA share, snap a photo of the vehicle’s license plate and send the photo (and any additional details) to a family member or friend.

4. Don’t ride in the front seat

Passengers (especially women) who ride up front have been on the receiving end of assaults, groping and other aggressive, unwanted behavior, according to Taxicab, Limousine and Paratransit Association spokesman Dave Sutton.

»Cops: Fake Uber driver sexually assaulted woman leaving Buckhead bar

5. Follow your own map

Open up your own maps tool, enter your destination and follow along, noting any odd route shifts.

6. Travel in groups

There’s often safety in numbers. Try riding with a friend or two or consider using the carpool option some ride-hailing services offer (Uber Pool, Lyft Line).

7. Trust your gut

If you have an inkling of discomfort or sense something fishy, don’t get in the car. If you’re already on the road and are in an emergency situation, call 911 immediately.

»RELATED: How to use Uber and Lyft at Hartsfield-Jackson

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