“When my mom called me, the panic and distress in her voice was very unnerving. She was crying, we were both helpless and I could hear commotion all around her. I didn’t know what to do.”
*The below narrative is based on a true witness account of an incident that occurred during a digital taxi platforms strike in July 2018*
“I was in the office when the digital taxi platforms strike started, so I was only vaguely aware that it was going on. That’s why, when my mom first called me to tell me she was leaving the house to run errands in Upperhill, no alarm bells went off in my head. She got there okay. After a couple of hours, she called me again to let me know she was in a taxi on her way back home.
The next thing I know, she calls me while in tears. Their taxi had been stopped on Waiyaki Way by protesting drivers. They had pulled her driver out of the car and were roughing him up, while others were damaging the car, rocking it from side to side as though they meant to turn it on its side.
Fortunately, a Good Samaritan saw the commotion and stopped to rescue my mom. She let mom know that she worked for a private security firm and she would ensure she got her home safe. I couldn’t really find the words to thank her, because she put her own life and property on the line to rescue my mom.”
While the circumstances surrounding this particular incident were pretty unique, this is one of the risks that we perhaps run when using digital taxi hailing platforms. On this occasion, we were quite pleased that one of our own, Judith*, was on hand to rescue the damsel in distress. That being said, several instances of sexual and physical assault, verbal confrontations, theft and more have dogged an industry whose popularity has skyrocketed in the last five years or so.
Abroad, this CNN investigation into two digital taxi platforms in the United States revealed that police reports had been filed against 121 drivers in the past four years. With this context in mind, and appreciating our own increasing dependence on these platforms, how can we ensure we ride safe?
Before the Ride:
It’s wise not to request for a ride until you are ready to leave. While on the topic, do not leave the house or premises you’re in until your assigned driver contacts you to let you know (s)he is at the pick-up point. Waiting outside simply exposes you and leaves you vulnerable to malicious individuals with criminal intent.
Before getting into the vehicle, check the driver’s rating. This might go some way into telling you what kind of driver you will be riding with. Also confirm that the vehicle make and registration number corresponds with the information shown in the app. Rogue drivers might attempt to dupe you into getting into their vehicles instead.
During the Ride:
“Over the years, Christensen said she noticed a trend in those who’ve come to her firm for help: Victims tend to be female and petite, live alone, and were inebriated at the time of the alleged assault.” Lawyer Jeanne Christensen speaking to CNN.
On the basis of a number of incidents uncovered during the broadcaster’s investigative piece, it might be worth reconsidering taking an Uber after a wild night out, especially if riding alone. Having a designated driver within your squad would be ideal, but having a trusted driver who can pick you up would also work. If you must ride a taxi while inebriated, don’t ride alone.
While on the topic, you also might want to reconsider riding shotgun. The front seat has obvious appeal, but also exposes you to driver misconduct like sexual harassment, particularly for female passengers.
Also, be sure to let a loved one know of your progress as you go along. Let them know the name of the driver as well as the make and registration details of the car.
After the Ride:
You have probably come across harrowing tales of riders who have had confrontations with drivers over matters such as hiked fares.
According to a report by a local daily, some drivers are known to use an app called Lockito to simulate exaggerated trips, allowing them to charge exorbitant fees for a trip that appears much longer than it actually was.
Such confrontations typically happen at the end of a trip, but are highly cautioned against. You would rather use the platform’s official channels to lodge a formal complaint, or do so directly via the app.
Lastly, remember to rate your trip. This information will help future riders trying to get to their destinations safely, just like you 😊