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How can you make sure your Uber driver is safe?

March 18, 2016 by Steven M. Gursten

Safety advice for Uber riders who are concerned about getting in to the car with drivers after the Uber Kalamazoo shooting rampage

Jason Dalton Uber safety
Jason Brian Dalton

After the Kalamazoo shooting rampage at the hands of Uber driver Jason Brian Dalton, who drove from one random target to another, killing six people – and taking additional Uber fares in between shooting people – a lot of people are wondering if Uber is a safe way to travel. They’re wondering who exactly is driving these Uber cars.

This is a new one for me. I’ve written in depth about the insurance issues of being involved in a car accident in a Uber, or being hit by a Uber driver, and I’ve written about the legal liability surrounding ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft.

These services are essentially Smartphone apps that connect passengers with drivers for hire. Cars are reserved by sending a text message or by using the mobile app. Using the apps, customers can track their reserved car’s location. Uber, the San Francisco-based company, arranges pickups in many cities, including Detroit and Kalamazoo.

We’ve discussed issues where Uber drivers have gotten into car accidents and injured passengers or pedestrians, but never where the drivers actually assaulted someone, as Dalton did on Feb. 20, 2016. While it’s a bit beyond the traditional analysis I do on this legal blog as an automobile accident attorney, today I’d like to share some safety advice to keep in mind when taking you’re staring at the back of your driver’s head on your next Uber or Lyft ride and wondering who exactly is driving the car.

Q. When getting into an Uber or Lyft with a driver or a stranger, how do you know the driver isn’t going to hurt you, and how do you deal with that safety issue?

A. Whether a person is entering a traditional taxicab or an Uber vehicle, he or she must assess the situation, be aware of the circumstances and remain vigilant. Just as with a traditional cab, if a passenger doesn’t get a good “vibe” from the driver, then the passenger should ask to stop the ride and exit immediately. Where people get into trouble is when they ignore their intuition that something is wrong.

Additionally, with Uber, a passenger is notified ahead of time who the driver will be along with the driver’s license plate number, photo and rating. For the safety-conscious passenger, a pre-ride review of the information may help the passenger determine whether this is a ride that he or she wants to take.

Once the Uber vehicle arrives, the passenger may additionally verify that the driver and the vehicle are the same as whom Uber said they would be.

You also want to consider the insurance coverage in case you’re in a motor vehicle crash during the Uber or Lyft ride.

To be an informed, safety conscious consumer, a prospective Uber passenger may want to confirm with the Uber what its auto insurance coverage is for your area. For instance, according to Uber, its drivers are covered – during the time that they are transporting an Uber customer – for $1 million in liability, $1 million in uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage as well as No Fault coverage in a No Fault state like Michigan.

Our attorneys also send our sincerest condolences to the shooting victims’ families in this terrible tragedy. Our thoughts are with you.

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