Drivers with ridesharing applications, Uber and Lyft, met with
Sun-Gazette staff recently to highlight safety concerns and solutions.
Shawn Mallard, who has been driving for both services for about 4 years, said there are several regulations in place to ensure the drivers are irreproachable.
“Lyft has a very stringent background check policy,” he said. This includes a nation-wide search into criminal history.
“Your record has to be squeaky clean,” he added.
Drivers are subjected to these checks at least once a year, but sometimes are checked more than this. Those drivers who are found to have an issue are dropped from the service.
Uber has been relaxed on this front, according to Mallard, but they too are starting to be more vigilant with their recruitment.
Despite efforts to make the platform as safe as possible, much of the onerous falls on the driver and rider to ensure safe passage.
First and foremost, itinerants must recognize the company issued trade dress, or sticker placed in the windshield of the Uber or Lyft vehicle, according to Jimmy Moore, a driver for both platforms since around February 2018. The large magnets displaying Lyft and Uber are often used by official drivers, but these can be purchased online and don’t provide any legitimacy.
“They’re drivers out there that do not have the stickers on their cars,” he said. “My personal feeling is someone should not get into a car without those stickers being on.”
Drivers are instructed to place the stickers above the dashboard on the passenger-side of the front windshield and in the rear- windshield, again on the passenger-side.
When a request is made on the app, the nearest driver is notified and the potential passenger receives both the name, a picture, vehicle and license plate number, said Robert Johnson, Uber and Lyft since Nov. 2017.
“No. 1, verify the name of the individual that you’re hopping in the car with,” said Johnson. “No. 2, if you can verify the license plate, it’s kind of hard, but verify the plate number, the car color and the vehicle model before you hop in the car.”
The final thing riders should do, according to Johnson is leave a review on the application — both Uber and Lyft have similar review systems.
Drivers and riders have the ability to rate their experience. Those who give less than four stars, out of five, are never matched with each other again.
“If a driver acts inappropriately — starts asking fishy questions, ask you certain personal things, or even touching, — that rider needs to pick up the phone and call Uber or Lyft whoever is used and report that driver,” he said.
Jeff Smead, a driver for Lyft and Uber since July of 2018, said more drivers are starting to utilize dash and cabin cameras to ensure both the driver and passenger safety. If a rider accuses the driver of inappropriate behavior, the driver will have evidence to support his case.
But in general, if a passenger sees a recording device, they feel reassured of their safety, he said.
Safety for children is also high priority for many drivers. As a matter of liability, drivers cannot provide booster or car seats for children under 8-years-old.
Safety, in the end, is what many Uber and Lyft drivers are after, said Moore, both as professional drivers and as people who live in or around Williamsport.
“We’re out here driving, we’re out here as a part-time gig full-time gig, but we also have a concern for the community that we’re driving in,” he said.
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