Words of wisdom imparted by many parents to their kids: “Never get in a car with a stranger.” Yet, when we hail a LYFT or UBER from the app, that’s exactly what we’re doing. Laws vary from one jurisdiction to another; a valid drivers license and car inspection is all that’s required in some.
I speak from personal experience after requesting a LYFT car in Washington, DC. While sliding into the back seat, the driver chirped, “That doesn’t look like a service dog!” I responded that he was indeed a service dog and showed her the tag on his harness. Although only 3.5 pounds, Bellini has proven his proficiency at a big job— sensing and alerting me to triggers for seizures and Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The driver clearly did not want to believe that this dog was a trained service animal nor that I’m a senior with documented hidden disabilities. She did not ask the legal ADA question: “What task is he trained to do to assist you?”
“I’ll just get out and grab a taxi.” I offered. No way out. She engaged the child safety locks, trapping me in the back seat with my service dog, and she acted aggressively.
The dog and I both suffered concussions and injuries requiring surgery and ongoing medical treatment not to mention the deep trauma that resides within us. Neither of us will ever be the same. That one instant changed our lives forever. LYFT trust and safety employees do not respond via phone and the app instructs passengers to call 911. By that time it’s too late. First responders, who did not witness the incident, are not always helpful, and in fact often just the opposite. No amount of compensation makes you whole again after a trauma such as this. I felt like I was simultaneously fighting for my life and that of my canine partner. My advice is prevention: ride with professional drivers whether bus or taxi but not gig drivers. Although popular, the ride sharing apps pose a hidden danger.
My story is only one of thousands of similar incidents nationwide. Uber is finally addressing safety after nearly 6,000 sexual assaults —one in every five million rides that have been reported. That number does not include ones that are not reported. Complaints against Lyft are stacking up as well. Take away: DO NOT get into a car with a stranger hiding behind the Lyft or Uber logo. The risk is too great. You’ll need far more than a seatbelt. It matters little if the driver and license number match the ID on the app. It’s about lack of training, screening and credentials.
Use extra caution during the holiday season when many people take on gig jobs to earn extra dollars. Don’t get trapped by a false sense of security. You are riding with a stranger who in many cases has not been adequately screened. Don’t let those plump pink lips seduce you!
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