If you’re a woman who is either an Uber driver or considering becoming one, you will be working in an environment that will put you at slightly more risk than your male counterparts – when it comes to safety.
Forbes says women make up about 14% of Uber’s workforce of drivers. That means several hundred thousand women drive for Uber across the country. Most of them have had perfectly safe experiences. But far too many, have been put into scary situations.
As the #MeToo movement shows us, there are still way too many men in this country who will push women just as much as they think they can get away with. And when you’re secluded in the privacy of your car with a male stranger, a few of them will try to get away with more than they should.
Why Women Who Drive for Uber are at More Risk Than Men
Driving for Uber or Lyft puts women in a unique and not entirely safe situation. In other jobs where you deal with the public, women (and men) are usually in a physical location that doesn’t change from day to day or hour to hour. They work with the same people day in and day out. If a female worker gets into any trouble with a customer she usually has plenty of people nearby who she can trust and call on for help.
That’s not so when driving for rideshare. Female rideshare drivers are in a unique and somewhat risky position because the public they’re dealing with are riding with them (alone) in their car. If a rider gets a little creepy and spooks the woman for any reason – she’s in a very vulnerable spot. Her options are quite limited when compared to traditional public-facing jobs.
She can’t just jump out of the car and walk down the street and call for a co-worker to help her out. She has to stay in the car until she can reach a safe place to pull over. And then she has to figure out what is the smartest way to handle it.
Does she risk upsetting the male passenger more by insisting that he get out of her car now? Will that possibly cause him to turn violent? Or, is she better off trying to keep things toned down and getting him to his destination as quickly as possible?
Take a look at this video for an interesting story from a woman who got into a creepy situation with a male passenger.
He scared her to death, but in the end, there was no harm done. But listen as she tells the story of how she was struggling to figure out the best way to handle it while he was still in the car.
Levels of Risk Female Uber Drivers Face
There are several levels of risk to women from benign and entertaining to downright dangerous. The risks include – from least serious to most:
- Playful flirting – this is something women have always had to put up with and something most women cope with pretty easily. At best it can be entertaining and make you laugh and at worst it can be annoying and aggravating. But, in the end it’s harmless and the man gets out of your car at the end of the trip, says a nice good-bye and goes on his way;
- Getting hit on by an insistent man who simply won’t drop the subject no matter how clear you’ve made it that it’s not gonna happen. There is always the fear and the risk that this kind of situation could turn violent if not handled well;
- Being propositioned or offered money to engage in sexual activities with a male passenger. While this situation starts off as benign it has the potential to explode into something far more serious. If the woman doesn’t figure out how best to handle it – it could anger the man and he could potentially become violent. This can be a scary situation because you’re never sure how the man is going to react when you reject his offers;
- Being inappropriately touched by a male passenger. This is obviously not only a violation of your privacy and personal rights – it’s a serious crime. And men who commit this particular crime could be capable of doing much worse. You never know until the situation has passed;
- Being forced against your will with physical force or violence to do something. This of course is the most dangerous kind of situation a woman could get into and it is a life-threatening situation.
Fortunately, the more dangerous types of situations are the ones that are least likely to occur. And you can minimize the likelihood even more by being smart about where and when you drive.
The least serious of these situations, the playful flirting, is the most likely to occur. In fact, it could occur anywhere from several times a week to several times a day.
Getting hit on by an insistent man who simply won’t give up – is far less likely to occur than playful flirting. But it could still occur with disturbing frequency.
The last three situations on our list, we regard as least likely to occur and we believe these situations occur very infrequently. But, they can and do occur far too often.
The bottom line for women who drive for Uber and Lyft is – you are at more risk than a man and you therefore have to put a lot more thought into protecting yourself.
Figuring Out the Safest Times and Places to Drive
The absolute safest times and places for female drivers to drive is whenever and wherever you’ll get a professional business crowd. You should focus on driving the morning rush hour and starting out in nicer residential areas where you’ll get professionals who are going to work or the airport. That is the absolute best time and place if safety is your top priority. It’s also not bad on earnings!
Even though I’m a man and am not at the same risk as women, I’ve always felt completely safe around business professionals – when they’re going to and from work. Although I haven’t felt as safe with this same group late at night after they’ve had a few drinks! But even after a few drinks I feel safer with them than with other groups.
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And always during the mornings, mid-day and afternoons – I’ve never had even a hint of a problem from this particular group. Professional working people are simply not very likely to cause trouble when they’re sober and when they’re going to and from work.
The parallel strategy to morning rush hour is the afternoon rush hour. Here you’ll position yourself in areas with high concentrations of offices. You’ll do this in the late afternoon from about 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. You’ll get a very safe professional crowd who will be leaving work for either home or a restaurant or bar.
The second most safe time for women is during the day in between morning and afternoon rush. If safety is a top priority for you, then you should restrict your driving to morning and afternoon rush hours – and outside of those two times – then daylight hours only.
Don’t Drive Drunks!
Our best advice for women is stay away from drunks. Just say no to driving late at night. If you must drive at night, your safest times in most areas are before 11:00 p.m. Although that may differ depending on where you live.
You have to know your area and its people and their habits. Maybe drunks start coming out at 10:00 p.m. in your area. If that’s the case, then don’t drive after 10:00 p.m.
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I remember my first year driving for Uber. It was New Year’s Eve and I had a good laugh at the end of the night when I recalled how early in the evening, all my passengers were so civilized and well behaved.
But after midnight they were a totally different group of people. It’s like they had changed from these polished, refined and well-behaved people – to animals. All within about three hours’ time!
Guys can get really crazy late at night after a few drinks. They’ll do things they’d never imagine doing during the work day. The thought of one or two or three drunk guys getting into a car driven by a woman is actually kind of scary. I’ve often thought that if my wife ever drove for Uber – I’d never let her drive past 10:00 p.m. Things just get a little too crazy out there the later the night goes on.
Other Things Women Can Do to Protect Themselves While Driving
- Pay attention to your passenger’s rating when their call comes in. If it’s late at night, don’t accept anyone who is below a 4.6. There are a lot of passengers below 4.6 who are fine, but if you’re a woman driving late at night, by not accepting anybody below that level – you’ll increase your safety.
- Stay out of dangerous areas – whether it’s the street with all the bars late at night or an area of town known to have a history of crime and violence – if you’re a female driver, just stay away from these areas altogether.
- Don’t hesitate to cancel a trip – if for any reason when you pick a passenger up, you have any qualms – just cancel. It’s true, you don’t want to cancel too often, but remember your safety always comes first. So, if you don’t feel safe – for any reason when your passenger comes out to the car – just drive off and then press Cancel. You can always explain to Uber or Lyft later why you did.
- Make sure somebody knows where you are at all times – I “live” share my location with my wife at all times when I’m out driving. If anything were to happen she would know exactly where I was at the moment it happened. Google Maps has a live share function – as does Facebook. Although Facebook’s can only be set for up to one hour. Google Maps’ can be set to share forever, so you can turn it on at the beginning of your shift and not have to worry about it until you’re ready to turn it off. Also there are apps such as, Life360, which allow you to share your live location with anyone else who has the app.