Uber is a popular app that allows people to request rides from their mobile devices. The premise is that anyone can become an Uber driver by signing up with their personal vehicles, but the process of becoming an Uber driver lacks a lot of what many people would consider proper safety precautions. There are rarely any complete background checks done on Uber drivers, which raises the possibility of danger to someone who rides in an Uber alone. With 750,000 Uber drivers in the U.S, and 41.8 million Uber users, unfortunate attacks are bound to happen. Unlike cab companies, who operate a tighter ship with FBI background checks, hygiene and wellness checks, and mandatory driving training, companies like Uber have their own financial interests at top of mind, not their riders’ safety.
Uber is used a lot in many college towns such as Berkeley and Santa Cruz. While there haven’t been any reported cases of attacks happening in Ubers in Santa Cruz, people have reported countless inappropriate and even risky encounters with Uber drivers in Berkeley. Many girls who Uber alone are at risk of being kidnapped or killed, and in some instances, sold into sex trafficking. The problem seems far-fetched and unrealistic for it to happen so close to home, but many attacks happen that go unnoticed and unreported. Uber drivers can register under a fake name, and while the ride is going on, drug the passengers or discontinue the tracking of the ride on the app. This way women are suddenly off the map, with no account of their real last location. After a PCS poll of the teenagers who attend the school, over 80% of girls interviewed said they felt unsafe in an Uber alone. When asked about the threat of danger in Uber rides, 12th grader Ella Currie says she “only feels safe going in Ubers when [she is] with guy friends”. Similarly, 17 year-old Lauren Hubbell told the interviewers how she has been “warned by close family and friends to be alert when riding [Uber] alone” and to “not be afraid to defend [her]self if [she] feels threatened”. Many of the male students interviewed didn’t feel the same threat of Uber rides, although they felt they wouldn’t want their close female friends Ubering late at night alone. 11th grader Jack Pecoraro explained how he “hasn’t experienced the anxiety of Uber rides” but could “understand why [his] female friends would feel unsafe”. Co-author Kirin Hopper believes that “Uber is a helpful app, but [he] feel[s] like it’s too easy for something to go wrong”.
If this problem is well known, then why haven’t proper changes been made to ensure the safety of young girls and college students? Students at PCS should be wary of their Uber drivers and take certain safety precautions when considering taking a ride. Mothers advise their daughters not to get in the car before the driver says your name, to clarify it’s really who you booked a ride with. Students should be aware of their surroundings and pay attention to the directions the driver is taking, to make sure they are sticking to the booked path. Many girls stated how they were told to text someone the description of the car and Uber driver after getting in, just in case they went missing for the police to have a suspect to track. Unfortunately, these are safety measures that have to be taken while change is made to the Uber background checks.