The Gatepost Editorial: Ridesharing isn’t safe for women

On March 29, the nation was shocked when 21-year-old Samantha Josephson was murdered by a man posing as her Uber driver.

On April 1, an Uber driver right in Boston was arrested for raping a female passenger. 

For many FSU students, Thursday nights end with a ride in an Uber or Lyft back to school from one of many bars or off-campus parties. 

In their drunken revelry, students rarely think to check the license plate number or even ask the name of the driver. 

And students around the U.S. looking to circumvent the cost of taxis by using these ridesharing services are, for the most part, unaware of the many cases of theft, sexual assault, and even murder at the hands of the drivers or the men whom they think are their drivers. 

In these cases, the victims are overwhelmingly female. 

In July 2018, Elizabeth Suarez was robbed and raped by a man posing as her Uber driver after a night out in Las Vegas. 

In February of 2019, a New Orleans Lyft driver was arrested for kidnapping and raping a woman outside her home. 

On March 27, a man in Connecticut was charged with posing as an Uber driver and raping two women in the back of his car. 

These are just some of the cases that have been brought to the attention of the authorities. By simply Googling, “Woman attacked by Uber driver,” hundreds of results pop up within seconds. 

Far too often, women are led to believe that the circumstances of their assault can somehow be traced back to their behaviors – drunk or sober. 

Women are taught how to defend themselves through avoidance – don’t drink too much, don’t wear clothing that is too revealing, don’t leave a drink unattended. And now, it seems, don’t get into a Lyft or Uber alone. 

The unspoken second half of this is: “or else it’s your fault if you’re killed or sexually assaulted.” 

Rideshares are often marketed as a safe way to enjoy a night out on the town, but they’ve become one more venue where women must be responsible for protecting themselves and others.  

This booming industry has created a new set of rules that women are finding they have to live by. Emerging technologies, like Lyft and Uber, shouldn’t be making the world a more dangerous place for women. And yet, on the already long list of things women are expected to do to protect themselves, avoiding rideshare apps has now jumped to the top. 

Women shouldn’t be left alone in protecting their safety, and the safety of their friends. Rideshare services should be doing more to ensure their cars are easily and clearly identifiable. All cars should be marked with the same flashing signs that occasionally accompany Lyft rides. 

While background checks are required of all drivers for both services, both companies should invest in government-accredited background-checking services before giving their drivers the green light. 

But unfortunately, we must recognize there are limits to what rideshare services can do to protect customers. We live in a world where sexual assault and violence against women are a normal part of daily life. Until we address the root cause, no number of flashing signs will be able to protect people. 

It’s time to start questioning why we have allowed women to shoulder the blame for the heinous actions of men. 

We should be teaching everyone, regardless of gender, to be conscious of their surroundings and to have their safety – and the safety of others – always in mind. Our goal should be to foster an environment where girls and women aren’t afraid of what will happen to them if they happen to get into a car alone. 

Ridesharing is meant to make our lives easier and more convenient, but instead, it has introduced one more danger into women’s lives. We regret adding to the already lengthy list women are burdened with, but here are some ways to protect yourself in rideshares. Given the prevalence of the attacks, these are tactics everyone should consider, not just women. 

Check the driver’s rating. This should go without saying, but if a driver has a score that you are uncomfortable with, cancel your ride. 

Share your ride itinerary with friends – that way they know where you are and where you will be going. 

Know whose car you are getting into. When a driver arrives, ask and verify their name, the make and model of the car, and the license plate number. If even one minor detail is wrong, take that as a red flag. Do not get in the car.  

If you feel unsafe while riding in an Uber, the service added a feature in 2018 that allows you to dial 9-1-1 right from the app and provides your location to emergency services. 

These things are by no means a permanent fix – the only fix is to shift the culture when it comes to victim-blaming and violence against women.