Prior to the pandemic, ridesharing was an increasingly popular way to travel – despite some questions around ridesharing safety.
Even during this crazy period, ridesharing and public transport continue to be the means by which many people access their job, crucial health services, pharmacies and supermarkets. And we can expect invigorated usage in those states and territories that are re-opening the doors of their pubs, restaurants and other entertainment venues.
Yet, in a recent Nine News Survey, only 30% of Aussies admitted to always feeling safe while using rideshare services. So, should we be paying more attention to our ridesharing wellbeing?
Read on for tips on staying safe (and COVID-19 free) while using rideshare services.
Safety Regulations Explained
Since entering the Australian market in 2012, ridesharing services have copped a lot flak. Mostly due to their contract employment model and lax safety regulations.
This prompted states and territories to make legislative changes to require drivers to have appropriate licencing as well as background and vehicle safety checks before they can operate. Nice work, team.
However, these regulations and requirements do vary between jurisdictions, so check what’s relevant to you. In New South Wales for example, rideshare drivers must have:
- A valid driver’s licence
- Passport/birth certificate
- Proof of car insurance (comprehensive or third party)
- A 12-month driving record (which will be used for a police background check)
- An application for a passenger transport licence code (PTLC). This is something that taxis and private car companies also need to have. It may require a medical evaluation.
Plus, drivers can’t have any alcohol or drugs in their system while travelling with passengers. They’ll also need:
- An ABN (and be registered for GST)
- VIVO visa confirmation (if their passport is not Australian)
- A car that passes a vehicle safety check
Anyone can sign up to be a rideshare driver, so we recommend you do your homework and check the standards and requirements each service provides online. Compare them to find one you’re most comfortable with:
TIP: Never accept a ride for someone offering “lifts for cash” online. You don’t know who you’re getting in the car with, what criminal or driving record they have, how safe their car is or if they’ve been drinking. There’s no guarantee they’ll even deliver you to your destination.
Ridesharing Safety and Wellness Tips
Never used a rideshare service before? Or maybe you’re wanting to make sure your next trip goes smoothly.
These tips will help you stay safe while using a ridesharing service:
- Never get in a car with an unofficial driver. Check the driver’s face matches his/her profile.
- Verify the make, model, colour and licence plate of the car before getting in. Does it match your booking in the app?
- Check the driver’s safety rating. Trust your gut if something doesn’t feel right.
- Ask your driver “Who are you here for?” to confirm the booking is correct.
- Share your trip with contacts in real time if the rideshare app will let you. Or, screenshot the details and send them to a trusted contact.
- Tell your friend/family/colleague that you’re on your way. If they aren’t going to be at your destination, tell them you’ll let them know you got there safely.
- Ride in the back seat to avoid unsafe situations and maintain social distancing (read more COVID-19 tips below).
- Travel in groups if you can. Safety in numbers – enough said..
- Always, always wear your seatbelt. If it’s not functioning properly cancel the trip.
- Track your journey using your own maps/GPS app. If your driver deviates from the route, ask them to make adjustments. If something doesn’t feel right alert someone you can trust or contact the authorities.
How to Stay Well While Using a Rideshare Service
Sometimes, essential travel requires ridesharing. Not everyone has a car or has access to one all the time.
Minimise your risk of infection with these tips for staying healthy during this pandemic:
- Ask your driver to open and close your door (it’s one less thing for you to touch and for them to clean).
- Handle your own luggage to avoid risk of virus transmission.
- Sanitise or clean your hands before you get in and keep them to yourself during the trip. Then sanitise again when you’re out, just to be sure.
- Wear gloves and face mask to avoid skin contact with contaminated surfaces and touching your face.
- Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your elbow if needed and open the window (with a tissue!) to allow clean airflow.
- Avoid riding if you’re feeling unwell. Ride services like Ola are transporting goods for you if you need them (read more below).
What You Should Do if You’re in an Accident
What should you do if you’ve been involved in an accident during your rideshare trip?
- If you can, check everyone involved is safe
- Call the police and paramedics as needed
- Report the incident within your ride sharing app
Before booking your trip, check the app you’re using has these safety features in an easy-to-access location. At the very least familiarise yourself with where they are:
- GPS vehicle tracking
- Emergency contacts (triple zero, police, service representatives)
- List of your emergency contacts (that you set within the app)
Then if the worst happens, you’re able to alert those who can help you stay calm and in control of the situation.
Increased Risks for Women: Is Uber Safe for Females?
The taxi and ridesharing industry, dominated by male drivers, continues to experience incidences involving physical and sexual assault.
And while taxis are required to be fitted with security cameras, at this time, rideshare cars aren’t. It’s not surprising that only 30% of people feel safe all the time when travelling this way.
Enter stage left: Shebah – an all-women rideshare service.
While the service aims to give women a safer transport alternative, it’s also the only rideshare service who can legally transport kids. This is because all Shebah’s drivers are required to have a Working with Children Check (in addition to the requirements mentioned above).
Can’t leave work to be the #mumtaxi after school? Shebah lets you choose a regular, preferred driver (your kids will recognise) to take them to their after-school activities or family members. Nice one.
However, Choice warns that Shebah’s in-app safety features are very limited. The safety of the drive is provided more by the female driver and not the in-app functions.
But you can’t plan for emergencies, so this might just be a good option when you need it. If it’s available in your area.
As an adult, you can choose whether the lack of in-app functions is an acceptable level of risk. When it comes to introducing unaccompanied children to a ridesharing service, use your best judgement and show them how to contact the police, ambulance or family for help if they need to.
Ridesharing Safety Features from Other Apps
While Shebah’s in-app safety features might be lacking, Uber and Ola have introduced a new safety feature. Ola provide riders with a ‘Start Code’ that’s unique to you (and all your trips), while Uber has released a one-time-only pin number.
When you book a ride, your driver will need to enter it into his app to start your journey. If your code matches, you know you’re getting in the right car (so write it down in case your phone dies).
Stay Safe and Be Kind
Every industry is feeling the pressure right now, and this can mean people are more tense than usual. The best way we can ensure the safety and wellness of each other is to go out of our way to be respectful and kind.
If someone is snappy with you in the rideshare vehicle – or when you’re out in public – smile and give them some space – you never know what’s going on behind the scenes.
Over to You – Ridesharing safety
Have you ever felt unsafe when using a rideshare service? What other ride sharing safety tips can you share? We’d love to know.