Are On-Demand Rideshares like Uber & Lyft Safe for Women to Ride Alone?

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I am sure my best friend would have enjoyed our girls’ nights out much more had Uber and Lyft been around when we were in our twenties, going out dancing and drinking. She was always the designated driver. She would remain sober while the rest of us were able to partake in the festivities. It is not fun being sober around a bunch of drunk people, even if they are your friends.

On-demand rideshares allow everyone to drink, if they want to, because nobody has to be the designated driver. People can enjoy a couple of glasses of wine with dinner and not have to drive home. Some (not all) reports show that DUIs have decreased since Uber and Lyft have been in business. People are able to party until the bar closes and still make it home safely, and by people, I mean men. Uber and Lyft have been considered safe alternatives, until stories like that below, were reported about women being sexually assaulted by their drivers.

A CNN investigation has found that Sanchez is just one of at least 103 Uber drivers in the U.S. who have been accused of sexually assaulting or abusing their passengers in the past four years. The drivers were arrested, are wanted by police, or have been named in civil suits related to the incidents. At least 31 drivers have been convicted for crimes ranging from forcible touching and false imprisonment to rape, and dozens of criminal and civil cases are pending, CNN found.

How awful that women can’t just live their lives without the fear of being sexually assaulted everywhere they go. Men can go out drinking without fear they will be sexually assaulted when they get a ride home. Yes, men are sexually assaulted too, I am a volunteer sexual assault response team advocate (SART) for a local rape crisis center so I am aware of the statistics of men, women, and non-binary who are assaulted. I don’t know any man that lives in fear of being sexually assaulted when he gets a ride home.

It is a double-standard and victim-blaming society that believes women should have to choose either sobriety OR their safety and either independence OR their safety, while men do not. When a woman is sexually assaulted people ask what she was wearing, how much she had to drink, and why would she go there alone. Can you imagine if you asked this of men? Dude, why did you go to the bar alone and have some beers, you must have known you could be sexually assaulted? Dude, your shirt was a little tight, obviously you wanted it.

When women choose to go out, whether she drinks or does not drink, she deserves to feel safe, especially when she chooses a rideshare which is advertised as the safe way to get home. Rideshares set the expectation of consumer safety by having an easily identifiable brand, having apps that can track their ride and has the driver’s name and license plate.

Uber claims to have met with over 115 women’s groups to seek advice on how to tackle this issue and has implemented an emergency button in their app that will call 9-1-1 if activated. Uber has pledged to spend $5 Million dollars on prevention initiatives. Uber is an “exclusive partner” of End Violence Against Women International who created the global campaign Start By Believing which encourages law enforcement, health practitioners, campus administrators and the general public to believe victims. I am happy to see Uber taking these steps and I hope Uber is practicing what they are financially pledging by believing victims when they come forward to say they have been sexually assaulted by an Uber driver.