Ride-hailing is one of the more popular “public” means of transportation for getting around town today. Uber alone has broken the one billion ride milestone and now averages a million rides a day in the U.S. With all of these travelers looking for a lift to their destination of choice, drivers for Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) are lining up to make money shuttling passengers in their personal vehicles.
While smartphone apps connect drivers with identifiable passengers for a planned pickup, some drivers may be concerned about their encounters with complete strangers. There are precautions that ride-hailing drivers can take to protect themselves and make their jobs a little safer. Here are a few tips if you’re looking to be your own boss and drive strangers around town safely in your vehicle:
1. Report Rider Behavior
In the same way that passengers can rate Uber and Lyft drivers, those drivers can report passenger behavior. The passenger rating system is designed to make other drivers less inclined to accept a pickup. If a passenger scores a rating of three stars or less, consider yourself banned from riding Lyft. Always report rider behavior so other drivers know what they might encounter with that passenger.
2. Be Selective
Use discretion when accepting rides. This sounds pretty simple, but it is often overlooked when facing the opportunity to make money. Take the time to view passenger information and be selective about the areas where you pick up fares, especially when it’s late. If a neighborhood has a bad reputation and you’re uncomfortable picking up or dropping off there, then don’t.
3. Install a Dash Cam
Consider mounting an interior-facing dash cam in your vehicle positioned so that the camera captures passengers in the front and back seats. This added feature may discourage riders from misbehaving. If you choose to install one, make sure it doesn’t obscure your view of the road. Drivers should check into the laws surrounding the use of these cameras in cars as they vary by state. Some states may require you to let passengers know that they’re being recorded.
4. Don’t Break the Law
Knowing that passengers have the power to impact a driver’s standing with companies like Uber and Lyft, it’s easy to bend the rules for them or feel pressured into doing what they want. No matter what, always obey traffic laws, even when passengers ask you to do otherwise. Don’t allow riders to be back seat drivers pressuring you into taking unnecessary risks. If it is safe to do so, end the ride and ask them to leave. Then file a passenger report on them with your ride-hailing company.
5. Use Technology Wisely
It’s a fact, distracted driving costs lives. Pledge never to take personal calls or send text messages while you’re driving. Use the ride-hailing GPS navigation, because it will have the destination information already set before the trip begins. If the passenger requests a change in destination after the ride has begun, let them know that you will be pulling over to the side of the road before entering or accepting the new destination.
Keep your phone or GPS device mounted at eye level where it is easy to see without losing focus on the road. It’s illegal in many states to mount devices on your windshield, so take a moment to learn what is allowed and what isn’t where you live and drive.
6. Take Care of Yourself
If you’re working busy hours, time can fly. Make a conscious decision to take breaks and get out of your car and stretch. Stay hydrated and if you choose not to stop for meals, keep snacks in your car to enjoy between rides.
Driving fatigued is a hazard to you, passengers and everyone else on the road. Use sound judgement, and call it a day when you feel tired. The growing popularity of these services means that each day brings even more ride opportunities.
7. Additional Protection
Ride-hailing companies provide limited insurance coverage for you and your passengers, but it varies depending upon the stage of the ride cycle. Talk to your insurance agent to make sure you are properly covered. Look into purchasing additional ride-hailing insurance for Uber, Lyft and other TNC companies. This coverage affordably fills in the gaps to protect you and your vehicle.
Whether you’re driving full-time or for supplemental income, safety should always be a top priority when you’re on the road.