Now that many Americans are comfortable using Uber and Lyft, millions of people count on finding a safe and convenient ride with just a few taps on their phone.
But stories like the one about the South Carolina college student who was killed after getting into a car she mistook for an Uber raise questions about what riders can do to help maximize their safety.
Here are some key safety tips for using rideshare services like Uber and Lyft:
Wait for your ride indoors
This prevents you from standing outside unnecessarily with a phone in your hand, signaling to passing motorists that you’re waiting for someone to pick you up. Instead, wait until your driver is close or has arrived before going outside.
Confirm details when the car arrives
Don’t just look at what time your driver is coming. Pay attention to the make, model and color of the car, as well as the driver’s name and photo.
Make sure to match the license plate number on your screen to the one you see in real life.
Map your own route during the ride
This is especially important if you’re in a different city and aren’t familiar with the route. By monitoring your own GPS navigation, you’ll see if the driver is leading you astray.
Don’t share private information with your driver
This includes your personal phone number. The Uber app automatically encrypts both the driver’s number and the passenger’s digits to protect both sides’ privacy.
You should never share credit card info with the driver. All Lyft and Uber fares are paid through the app, and tips can be added there, too.
Ride in the back seat
If you’re the only passenger in the car, riding in the back seat gives both the passenger and driver more personal space. It also ensures you’re able to get out on either side to avoid traffic.
Tell a friend where you’re going and who you’re with
Both Lyft and Uber let you quickly and easily share who your driver is, where you’re going and when you’re supposed to get there.
The “share status” option in the Uber app gives your friend your driver’s name, photo, license plate and location. Your friend can then track your trip and see your estimated time of arrival — even if he or she doesn’t have the app.
The “send ETA” feature on the Lyft app is very similar. It sends a text to your friend with details about the car, the driver and how far along you are on the route.