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Protecting yourself in a ride-share

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Posted at 6:05 PM, Dec 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-06 18:05:47-05

LANSING, Mich. — Almost all of us have used a ride-sharing app, whether we were in a pinch, had car troubles, or had too much to drink.

Customers take 1.3 billion Uber rides a year, but the more rides that are taken means a great possibility that something can go wrong.

"When a single rider sits directly behind me, it's something that tends to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and it just makes me a little more nervous," Suzette Holloway, an Uber driver, said.

Holloway has been driving for four years and knows it's becoming increasingly more common to take a ride with a stranger.

"I think because its such a norm now to take an Uber or Lyft ride-share anywhere, and we're not paying attention to what we're doing," Holloway said.

According to a new study release by Uber, over the course of 2017 and 2018, there were nearly 6,000 reported sexual assaults during, or after an Uber ride, ranging from groping to rape.

The most severe of those assaults, rape, has been reported 464 times, which is roughly four reported rapes every week, or one in 5 million rides. Half of the victims in these reports are drivers.

"And so this is not just a one-sided problem," Tony West, chief legal officer for Uber, said. "We have to keep in mind that both drivers and riders are victims."

Uber says it plans to do a safety study of this kind every two years so the public will see how the company is doing.

East Lansing Police Deputy Chief Steve Gonzalez says when it comes to using these ride-share services, being aware is a big part of making sure you, and the driver, make it to your destination safely.

"People need to be safely conscious when using ride share services -- whether they're using a shared service, or of they're working for a service...always eer on the side of caution," Deputy Gonzalez said.

For riders, who are following along on the route on maps, and for drivers--things like having a security camera both inside of the car can help along with where the rider chooses to sit.

"So maybe ask the person to sit on the passenger side of the back seat so that you can see what they are doing and watch their behavior through the rear-view mirror," Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez also suggests both the passenger and the driver to keep in constant contact with others, in case something goes wrong. His biggest advice is that if something feels off in the arrangement, get out of the situation.

"Be aware of your surroundings and trust your instincts. If you get into a car or if someone gets into your car and you're just not comfortable and maybe you can't get your finger around why you're not comfortable with that person, end the ride," Gonzalez said.

Customers should always make sure the car's license plate matches the one on your app. Drivers should also make sure the person they are picking up is the same as their picture on the app.

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