Now that we've introduced and reviewed Uber, you may be thinking by now that it would be a nice alternative to traditional taxi services. After all, it is much more convenient, and (in a lot of cases) can save you a lot of money on cab fares. One major difference between traditional taxi services and Uber is that the drivers use their personal vehicles, and require no formal training to be employed. Uber may be a great alternative to your usual taxi, but how safe is Uber really?
Is Uber safe to use?
Uber is safe to use because it provides users with their driver’s picture, license plate, and car make and model. Its two-way rating system helps with accountability, and any issues with drivers or passengers can be reported instantly using the app. As long as reasonable precautions are taken, you should be safe.
Uber states that they are "committed to safely connecting riders and drivers". They conduct multiple background checks on all drivers that they hire to make sure that they have a clean criminal record, as well as a clean record when it comes to driving vehicles. And they make sure that all of their drivers have required end-to-end liability insurance.
Both drivers and riders are registered in the Uber system, so there isn't as much mystery regarding whom one is picking up or being driven by. In addition, Uber has established guidelines for both vehicle and personal safety, so that both drivers and passengers can feel safe and enjoy their Uber trip together. Finally, Uber drivers and riders can rate each other, so abusive individuals are weeded out and removed from the system.
Uber safety issues
However, safety issues have been brought up with regards to whom Uber hires as drivers, especially because Uber drivers use their own cars and trucks. In some areas, the only requirements for becoming an Uber driver are being old enough and healthy enough to drive, having a valid driver's license, and passing a criminal background check. (See our How to Become an Uber Driver tutorial for a more detailed explanation.)
Therefore, there are some who have expressed concerns with Uber's drivers potentially not being as strictly regulated as traditional taxicab drivers. Their complaints revolve around a lack of things such as supplementary taxicab driver training and licensing, as well as insurance (taxicab-specific or otherwise) and car condition.
4 tips for staying safe while using Uber
Overall, Uber is about as safe as the traditional taxi service that it emulates, and perhaps even more so. Just in case, though, we've provided some extra tips that can make your ride with Uber as safe as possible.
1. Wait in a safe place for your Uber driver to arrive.
One of the benefits of using Uber instead of a traditional taxicab service is that you can get an Uber driver to pick you up pretty much anywhere that's convenient to you. This saves you the trouble of having to wait for a taxi in an unsafe neighbourhood, or in an overly-busy urban area where traffic might pose a hazard to you. You can even wait inside a building if you want, and Uber will notify you when your driver arrives to pick you up.
2. Make sure that you're getting picked up by the right driver and car.
The Uber app allows you to see the first name, profile picture, license plate number, and car picture for your driver. Make sure that all of these things match when your driver arrives. If you can, also see if you can get your driver to recognize you by name. All of this is to make sure that you are being picked up by an actual Uber driver. This is especially important because most Uber cars do not have distinctive markings, unlike traditional taxicabs.
More generally, you can also use the Uber app to track the car that your ride request is sent to. This helps you avoid drivers who show up suspiciously early or that claim that you flagged them down (or were supposed to); Uber drivers are not allowed to respond to flag-downs.
3. Stay in touch with someone you trust.
Your Uber driver will most likely be relatively unfamiliar to you, so it wouldn't hurt to have someone you trust on standby as a backup. Make sure that person knows where you are and where you're going before you get in your Uber car. Also make sure that your phone is fully charged and that your confidant has a method of getting in touch with you available. This lets either of you contact the other and check up on how things are going, or perhaps even intervene in case of an emergency.
4. Use the Uber driver rating system to address concerns.
In addition to your Uber driver's identifying information, the Uber app will also show you the rating score that the driver has been given by people who have ridden with that driver before. We don't necessarily suggest cancelling your Uber ride if your driver's rating is low (though you can if you want to; see our How to Cancel an Uber Ride tutorial), but if you have a poor experience while riding, you can anonymously rate your driver appropriately (we will explain how in our How to Use Uber tutorial). This may help warn others about the driver, and perhaps lead to them getting a performance review.
In the unlikely event that something egregious happens that makes you feel unsafe, we would recommend contacting Uber directly (see our How to Contact Uber Customer Service tutorial). You may also want to contact your regional law enforcement department.
That's our primer on safety while using Uber!