@evelynandtheodore

Safety Tips for Lyft Drivers

 As a Lyft driver, safety is a big deal. But as a female Lyft driver, safety is a very large concern, and not just for you, but for your family & friends (as has been made evident by a slew of questions & concerns I've gotten from them since starting). Of course, there's also the safety of your riders that you need to think about, as well. Today, I'll be covering some of the measures I've taken & options I'm looking into to protect myself & others that will be riding in my car.


First up, let's talk about the safety concern we're all presented with on a daily basis: Covid. There are some super easy ways to be safe & there are more in-depth ways, as you can see below:

  • Face masks: You should never accept a rider who refuses to wear a mask. If they simply forgot them, make sure to always have a few individually wrapped disposable masks on hand. They're cheap enough to provide to your riders for free, but if you want to make a little extra cash, you can always charge $1 or so a piece.



  • Hand sanitizer: By now, I'm sure we've all had hand sanitizer in our cars religiously, but what about the backseat? Do folks in the back have easy access to it? If not, I'd suggest keeping an extra bottle in your backseat basket for your riders to use. Having a bottle with a pump reduces handling of the bottle, and therefore less touch contact germs.



  • Fabric sanitizer: whether you have leather seats or not, you have carpet & most likely a cloth ceiling in your vehicle. It doesn't hurt to give it a good spray down once you're home, or even after every couple of rides. I've been using this Bissel brand spray that's designed for pet stains and odors, but it's worked wonders from the riders I've had that smelled heavily of tobacco or weed, and left an aftersmell. This eliminates the aftersmell & leaves the car smelling like it just got detailed.



  • Air quality control: Keep your cabin circulation button off so that your air flow is always coming from outside of the car. Open your windows (even just a little) in between riders to freshen it up. Maybe even keep a couple windows slightly cracked during rides so that you have increased outside airflow (some riders may want them closed, so I always let them know they have control of their windows & to let me know if they'd like the front ones closed). There are also small scale air purifiers that you can use to help with allergens & odors. I plan on trying this one out from Amazon. The Lyft store also has one available for about $30; they also have the replaceable filters. 



  • Sanitizing wipes: Wipe down your car after each shift at minimum, if not more, depending on the positivity rate in your area or your personal comfort level. Door handles, car doors, window buttons, seat belt latches, etc. 



  • Sneeze guard: Several plexiglass options have become readily available online. These usually attach to your front headrests, and separate the front of the cabin from the back, while allowing sound and temperature control to come through. This not only is good to prevent germs from floating up front, but it also helps protect your seats in case someone vomits, has a dog that wants to climb onto your center console, or spills a drink. It also is a great way to prevent any unwanted physical contact from any riders that might violate your personal boundaries (especially if you're running a shift at bar closing time).


Now lets talk about general safety. There are a lot of different situations you could run into as not only a Lyft driver, but as a driver in general. From bad riders to collisions to unsafe neighborhoods, you never know what you're going to need, so it's best to be over-prepared. Here are some ideas to improve the safety of your vehicle for yourself & for your Lyft shifts. Keep in mind, too, that if this is your side-gig, you can easily earn the money for some of these more expensive items during your first week or two of driving, so that you don't spend a ton of cash up-front.
  • Roadside emergency kit: These are usually pretty basic, but they can come in great handy! Just last week I picked someone up who had to get a ride back to his car that had died the night before in his work parking lot. When we got there, I asked him if he wanted me to try to jump it, and since I had jumper cables on hand, we were able to get him back up & running and on his way. Plus, I got a hefty tip for going out of my way to help him. Win-win, I say. This is the kit I have & it fits pretty much anywhere nice & tidy. 



  • First aid kit: Unfortunately, there are times where you may pick up someone in need of medical attention. Say someone tripped on a hiking trail now doesn't want to walk home with blood running down their leg... it's a good idea to have a basic First Aid kit on hand to quick let them patch their leg up before getting into your car. Of course, there may also be more serious situations, such as a car collision, or someone who needs to go to the hospital or police station to report a crime, but hopefully those situations will be rare.



  • Seatbelt cutter/window breaker: Although most headrests can be removed and used to break your windows in case you somehow end up in a body of water, you'll still need to get out of your seat. This dual tool could be vital in an emergency, even after a seemingly basic collision that leaves you trapped in your seat. 



  • Mace/Pepper spray: Where legal, either of these is a good option to have in case of emergency. Mace gel has a more targeted aim, and will be less likely to blow back into your face. It's great for small spaces, such as the cabin of your vehicle. Some even stain the assailant's skin for up to two weeks so that they're easily identified by authorities.



  • Air compressor/tire repair kit: I have one of these and it's incredibly handy. I no longer have a need to stop at the gas station to fill my tires in the winter, and if I ever get a flat on the road, I can use the repair kit to get to the shop and have it professionally taken care of. These are especially great for long trips where you won't be near your normal repair shop & will most likely just be going to whoever is closest.



  • Dash/cabin camera: These are a good idea to have in case anything goes awry. They can capture not only the road from your perspective (great for collisions), but they can also capture all activity in your vehicle. This can help protect you against false claims from riders, but also help prevent shady behavior from them as well. Knowing that they're on camera may deter any mischievous plans they may have had. There are also decals/static clings/etc online that disclose the fact that you have a camera in the car, and that by entering your vehicle, they consent to being recorded. Several options are available, but this one is a great size & price, just remember you'll also need to buy the micro SD card for it!



  • Life360 app: This is a great way for your family or friends to access your GPS location/history in case you don't come home at your usual time or they're worried about what neighborhoods you're driving in and just want to stalk until you get somewhere else (*cough cough* mom 😜). It's a free app that allows you to add certain people to your circles, and the information is available for 24 hours (longer if you get the paid version). You can set up alerts for when you arrive/leave certain places, such as home, and give them peace of mind while you're out.
Obviously some of these items are just great for you when you're driving alone, but they're really great to have on hand as a rideshare driver. There are a lot of other things you can do to keep yourself and your belongings safe as well. 

For example, where do you usually put your purse/wallet in your car? If it's a space that just anyone can see and access, it's time to look for an alternative spot for when you're working. Does your car have a locking console? Do your doors have extra pockets so you can keep it close to you? The same goes for your coat; it should be kept either on you, or tucked away somewhere they can't reach it. Keep your car clear of anything unnecessary so that you don't risk it disappearing.

When you pull up to your pickup destination, park under a streetlight if possible, and lock your doors if they automatically unlock when you shift into park. Wait to unlock them until you confirm you have the correct rider, especially if their profile doesn't have a photo, and especially if you're in an unfamiliar neighborhood. Don't ask them "Pickup for *insert name here*?" because they can easily just say they are *insert name here* and enter your car without you knowing if they truly are *insert name here.* Ask them instead to confirm the name listed for pickup before unlocking the doors, and you'll be better off; some riders may be different than the Lyft user who requested the ride, but they should at least know the name of the driver they're looking for. Keep your door locked at all times, even if the others are unlocked for your rider to enter your car. Encourage them to sit in the back passenger side seat, rather than behind you or in the center. Some decals/magnets for your car are available online exactly for this purpose.

Accept rides that are in areas you're comfortable & familiar with. At first, you won't have much choice, but as I discussed in this post, once you reach Gold Status with a 90% Ride Acceptance Rate, you can be a bit more selective since you'll see their full route ahead of time. If they're going to an area you aren't comfortable with, skip it (just be aware that this will affect your AR & that you will not be able to see full routes if you drop below 90%). Also consider driving towards the direction you'd prefer to do pickups in before going online & see if you get more comfortable ride requests (I'll be doing that this week on my after work shifts to test the Rockton/Roscoe area market).

Keep your extra stops to a minimum; use your judgement for when you're comfortable to stop & wait at any unlisted stops. I've had a few times that people have asked to quick stop at a gas station without it being a stop through the Lyft app, and they've never been in neighborhoods I'm super familiar with. At first, I was willing to do it, but after sitting at a couple dimly lit gas stations for slightly longer than I was comfortable with ( and one McDonal'd drive thru that took over 20 minutes...no tip and a couple canceled queue rides), I'll be requesting that all riders add their stops in the app, or I'll be denying the stops if it's in an area I'm not familiar or comfortable with, especially if I'm driving at night.

On that note, decide on what hours you feel most comfortable driving, and try to create a schedule for yourself. Personally, I enjoy weeknight evenings before dinner, and Saturday mornings into late afternoon. I'll make an exception on Fridays/Saturdays if there is a reasonable nighttime bonus, but otherwise, I'd prefer to have my evenings at home & stay away from the bad neighborhood pockets at night. Thursdays at the end of my shift, I get a carwash & vacuum the truck out (I have an unlimited wash subscription at a local carwash that has free vacuums) to prepare for the weekend riders, and I'm good to go.
If you're like me, and doing this as a side gig to boost your savings/rainy day fund, remember that while you may have a financial goal for this job, it isn't crucial to your everyday life. You have the power to schedule your own hours, and if you don't feel like driving, you don't have to; that's the glory of being your own boss. Not every day has to be productive, but of course you'll be glad to accept more money for exceeding your goal if you hit it early on in the week. And in that same vein, if you're out and about and don't really feel like going home yet, maybe use a destination filter to get you home by a certain time & make a couple extra bucks. Just don't burn yourself out or neglect your non-work life by taking extra hours.

Don't give out personal information. Your last name, your neighborhood, your workplace...all these things make it easier for unsavory characters to find you at any time outside of the app. Casual conversation will of course come up from time to time; I can't tell you how many times I've been asked if I grew up in the area already, and I've only been at it for a couple of weeks part time. Keep your answers vague, but cordial. For example, when people ask if I'm from the area, I just say, "oh yeah, I've been in the Rockford area my whole life," and when they ask, "so do you do this full time?" I just say I do it as a way to get out of the house and cubicle during this pandemic garbage. Most people don't ask what office I work in, but they have asked what kind of work I do full time, and I just say I'm a typical paper-pusher; "nothing too exciting," I joke. After that, they tend to move on to the next subject or joke about how they understand that feeling.

Overall, rideshare safety is all about trusting your gut, and listening to your instincts, for both drivers & riders alike. Stay safe, stay healthy, and stick to what makes you feel comfortable. If you have any other suggestions, feel free to leave them down below! 

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