If you read the names Uber, Lyft or Sidecar in the headlines, your first thought might be that one of the ride-hailing companies’ drivers has been arrested for harassing a customer. These companies have come under fire for not vetting the drivers more carefully, but it’s not always the drivers that are the violent culprits, sometimes it’s the passengers.
If you’re looking to try your hand at becoming an independent contractor with a famous ridesharing company, be warned: there is a strong chance that they will not be able to compensate you if you or your vehicle suffer passenger anger. But don’t worry, CoverHound can help you compare auto insurance prices and help you find a policy that’ll back you up when others can’t.
Rollin’ with the Passengers: What to Expect
According to Bloomberg, taxi drivers have the highest number of deaths by violence. In fact, “taxi drivers are more likely to die from homicide than from a transportation accident.” Rideshare drivers are taxi drivers, just by another name. Though the news reports you see in the media are more often about a ridesharing driver harassing a passenger, passengers have proven to be violent themselves. There’s a website called Who’s Driving You dedicated to sharing news about ridesharing drivers who have injured, maimed, harassed, assaulted and even killed their passengers. It’s not as easy to find information about drivers getting attacked by their passengers, but it does happen.
Take the Taco Bell executive who pummeled his Uber driver when he was too drunk to give the driver the address he wanted to be taken to. There was the drunk passenger in Miami (a doctor who after video surfaced lost her job) who harassed her Uber driver and trashed his vehicle.
Ridesharing drivers don’t know the frame of mind their passengers are in before they pick them up, and every passenger is a gamble. Here’s how to protect yourself:
Winning the argument isn’t worth it: Be it geographical (their drop-off location), political or even about pop culture, trying to best the passenger isn’t worth it, even when they’re in the wrong. If they believe you have purposely tried to shame them or embarrass them they can become aggressive in defending their ideas. Maintain pleasantries but keep the conversation brief.
Refuse service: When you pull over to pick up a passenger, make sure all doors are locked so they cannot readily get in the vehicle. Ask for their name and have them repeat where they want to go. If they appear heavily intoxicated, you can say you will not be able to assist them, and have them contact another driver. If the passenger should gain entry to your vehicle, ask them professionally and politely to exit. If they refuse, call law enforcement.
Check passenger ratings: Before agreeing to pick up a passenger, check their rating with the company. If a passenger has a low-star rating, you will want to avoid picking them up. There’s no point in putting yourself in harm’s way if it can be avoided.
Assert control of the vehicle: As was mentioned above, do not readily let the passenger into your vehicle. Instead, park the vehicle, get out and walk over to the passenger you will be shuttling. Introduce yourself and shake the passenger’s hand. The information about ridesharing blog RideShareApps tells drivers that performing this action will humanize you, making you more than a convenient service. By seeing that you’re “just like them!” they’ll be more civil and courteous.
When to defend yourself against a violent passenger: If a passenger becomes violent, call law enforcement. Uber, Lyft and Sidecar have different rules when it comes to drivers carrying items like pepper spray and stun guns to defend themselves, so try to work for a company that allows you to carry these items should you need to defend yourself.
And perhaps the most important of all, if a passenger makes you uncomfortable, you are not obligated to pick them up or take them to their end destination. You can pull over and ask them to get out or you can refuse service at the start. It’s your safety and your vehicle, don’t do anything you’re uncomfortable with.
You have responsibilities on the road: to you and your passengers. Make sure you’re safe and covered by comparing auto insurance policies with CoverHound.