Do your friends ask you, “Is Uber driving dangerous?” or “Don’t you worry about delivering food to strangers’ houses alone?” They’re not crazy. Gig driving is a dynamic and straightforward way to make money, but it can also make drivers wonder about their personal safety. Delivering food, packages, and other items to unfamiliar addresses, not to mention inviting strangers to enjoy a ride inside your vehicle, can put you at risk.
There’s really no reason to let safety concerns get in the way of enjoying a fun and profitable driving gig, so we put together this post to provide tips to help keep you safe. Here’s what we’ll cover:
- rideshare and delivery driver safety
- tips for safe gig driving
- what drivers have to say about safety
Rideshare and delivery driver safety
How big of an issue is safety? Much depends on where you drive, what times of day you’re out on the streets, and how well you prepare yourself for virtually almost any situation. There have been various incidents in the last few years where drivers have experienced muggings, carjackings, sexual assault, and worse.
Even if you think you’re keeping your gig work to low-risk situations only, you still need to be prepared for unexpected events. And if you’ve noticed the risks you’ve taken in your driving gig, it’s even more important to focus on developing a safety strategy. Here are 10 tips to get you on your way.
Tips for safe gig driving
1. Develop a calm and assertive attitude
You and your attitude form the first line of defense when it comes to protecting yourself from danger. When you act nervous or frightened, you can attract people who want to take advantage of your weakness. When you project an attitude of peaceful confidence, while establishing a sense of safe boundaries with everyone you encounter on your shift, you don’t bear any resemblance whatsoever to a victim. Bullies and perpetrators will look elsewhere for someone to pick on.
If you want to learn more about developing the right attitude, consider taking a self-defense course or enrolling at a martial arts school. You’ll learn all about “calm and assertive,” and you’ll walk the talk when you learn how to defend and protect your personal space.
2. Be aware of your surroundings
This can be harder than it sounds. The distractions of pinging phones, oncoming traffic, noisy pedestrians, loud music, and the other sights and sounds of rideshare driving and delivery work can live in your head without paying rent, and they often stop drivers from paying full attention to what’s going on around them. How can you become more observant and vigilant?
Be “in the moment.” Take care of issues such as finding your way into a restaurant or bathroom, or finding out your customer’s specific address before you get out of your (hopefully, locked) car. Avoid looking at your phone, but keep it close to hand in case you need a flashlight or to call for help.
Keep the calm and assertive attitude we mentioned earlier, walk confidently, and use your peripheral vision to widen the range of what you can see with your eyes. Also, if you’re on a quiet street, walk along the curb and away from entryways or other areas where a person with ill intent might be lurking, and you can be seen by cars that might pass by.
3. Use in-app safety features
Both rideshare and delivery companies have features that allow you to designate a family member or friend to track your location when you want to share it with them. The feature is available to rideshare passengers as well as drivers. Using this feature is sound advice for new Lyft drivers and Uber drivers, and can benefit delivery drivers as well.
If by chance your company’s app doesn’t have this feature, you can use Google maps, Apple’s Find My Friends, and other apps that allow you to share your location. This article shows 10 different apps you can download to let loved ones know where you are, so they can come to you or send help if there is trouble.
It’s even more important to know about the “panic button” options you have within your app. Study your app’s features to learn the steps of using built-in calls for help, such as this one from Uber. Most smartphones also have quick ways to call for help, it’s true. However, by using the one with your company, you keep them alert to the fact that you’ve let out a distress call, and they’ll have more information about youl.
Delivery drivers who have to feed parking meters on a regular basis can save themselves the exposure of standing around fumbling for the proper payment method. Parking apps let you stay safely inside your car while you pay the fee.
4. Get reliable road service
While it’s true that many driving apps provide road service to drivers, often as a performance perk, one source of emergency help might not be enough. Let’s say there’s a huge storm or extreme temperature conditions that raise the demand for road service through the roof. One road service might be totally swamped, while another might be less overwhelmed.
Gridwise Benefits provides full-service roadside assistance. It’s got you covered, no matter what the reason for your rescue might be. Count on Gridwise Benefits Roadside Services when you need a tow, a jump for your battery (or a new one), emergency tire changes, and even when you get locked out of your vehicle.
Roadside service is one of those items you don’t think you need, until you do! Don’t even think about carrying on a gig driving business without it.
5. Carry safety equipment
You need as much space as possible in your storage area to accommodate passengers’ luggage or several delivery containers, but save a small area for crucial equipment. Some of the things you should carry include
- a tire pressure gauge and portable air compressor
- a flashlight or headlamp
- backup oil, radiator fluid, washer fluid, etc.
- flares or triangles that alert other drivers to your stopped-in-traffic status
- a decent supply of drinking water and snack food, in case you’re stuck waiting for a long while
- winter weather gear, including a blanket, gloves, snow shovel, road salt, and hand warmers
- jumper cables
- your driver manual, or access to it through the Internet
- a first aid kit, in the event you fall or get a minor cut in the course of a ride or delivery
- a device capable of breaking your window glass, in case you find yourself trapped inside your vehicle after an accident. Tactical pens like these can be a good option here. They can also double as self-defense tools, flashlights, and screwdrivers.
- extra batteries for your key fob and any other electronic devices you depend on (tire gauge, flashlight)
- an extra phone charger, in case yours gets lost or “mistakenly” taken by a passenger
- a multi-tool for changing batteries or making minor repairs to your safety items
6. Check rider and delivery customer ratings
Who has time to notice a customer’s rating? You should make time. It takes a whole lot of bad behavior for a rider or customer to get a low star rating on your app. If you get a request from such a person, consider opting out of the ride or delivery; it could help you avoid trouble.
Can you remember the last time you gave a passenger or delivery customer a bad rating? You probably had a good reason. And with the benefit of the driver community in mind, you told it like it is. If a potential customer has a bad rating, those drivers probably had good reasons, too, and their honesty could keep you safe.
7. Keep a low profile
It’s hard not to be obvious about your role as a rideshare or delivery driver. After all, you have a decal, an amp, or maybe both on your dash, identifying you as a driver, plain as day. If you’re carrying packages, some people might see you as an easy target. If you’re delivering food, your bags and the sweet smell of yummy burgers and fries wafting from them are dead giveaways.
But if you want to stay safe and avoid giving away anything valuable, there are some ways to keep a low profile and steer clear of enticing potential pilferers from targeting you. Here they are:
- Drive a “plain brown wrapper” vehicle. Leave your upscale ride at home, and don’t put company branding all over your car.
- Dress down. Gold jewelry, precious stones, and even high-end kicks could inadvertently introduce you to someone you definitely don’t want to meet.
- Don’t carry a lot of money. One of the positive points of not driving a taxi is there’s no need to carry cash for your business. Just keep enough on you to grab a snack or buy your way out of a jam when you run out of fuel.
- Keep the volume low. It’s tempting to crank up the decibel level of your music just to keep yourself interested in going to the next ride or delivery trip, but if you’re in a sketchy area, booming speakers can also draw unwanted attention to your car, and you.
- Avoid controversial topics. Here’s another place where that “calm and assertive” attitude will help. There’s no need to start or continue an argument with a passenger, a restaurant worker, or a delivery customer. Keep the conversation superficial and pleasant; and if it starts to get unpleasant, don’t be afraid to end the ride or finish your delivery as fast as possible.
8. De-escalate tense situations
If you find yourself in a situation where someone decides to take out their bad mood on you, do your very best not to take it personally. Instead, de-escalate the situation. Don’t argue or engage in a battle of wits, whether it’s over whose team is going to win the game or why you were late for your pickup or delivery.
Did you know that the act of avoiding a fight is actually a martial arts tactic? It’s true. The first thing a martial artist is trained to do is find ways to avoid a conflict. The second is to get away. It’s only if and after these things don’t work, that the martial artist will be forced to engage in self-defense through physical means.
Remember, the next time you avoid a verbal battle with a customer, rider, or even someone you encounter randomly on the street, you’re not backing down. You’re showing off your smooth kung fu moves!
9. Know where and when to drive
Try to drive in areas you know well. Understand and be aware of the areas and times of day that pose the most risk. Here is an article you that will help you to do some research. While you always want to be ethical and fair to people who live in high crime areas, and don’t want to avoid serving them with a ride or delivery, you also want to know what you might find when you get there
But let’s say you pick someone up at a fancy office downtown and wind up taking this nice person to a destination that makes you very nervous.
There are a few things you can do:
- To avoid taking more trips from this apparently dangerous area, you can simply sign off your app until you can get to a safer neighborhood.
- Always program the coordinates of a busy, comparatively safe, area into your GPS so you can begin navigating there in one touch. That way, you can quickly find your way to a safe location.
Gridwise features Where to Drive and When to Drive are designed to help you make more money, but they can help you stay safe, too. Study them to see where drivers are making the most money. In general, these will also be places that are heavily populated, and therefore, on the safer side for you.
10. Self-defense and self-care
Most lists of Uber safety tips or Lyft safety tips, as well as lists of safety tips from delivery services, usually don’t address self-defense in positive ways. The one rule that’s pretty much in effect across the board is that the company will either forbid you from carrying firearms and other weapons, or fail to cover your back should you find yourself in a situation where you’ve had to use one.
It could be argued that these policies are, in fact, safety measures. However, they don’t offer much in terms of instructing drivers how to protect themselves. Even where it is legal to carry weapons, there is no reason to risk deactivation in the event you get caught carrying one.
You might hear recommendations that suggest carrying pepper spray or a Taser, and these might assist you in getting out of a violent situation. However, they can also get you into further trouble. There are other measures you can take, including the ones we’ve already listed, to defend yourself. If you want to carry something, a loud whistle or keychain siren can often inspire attackers to go away.
If you’re asking the question, “Is rideshare safe?” you can learn a lot about safety issues specific to rideshare drivers in this Gridwise post.
Getting back to the issue of weapons, there is one “weapon” that no one can deactivate you for using, and that’s a dashcam. Drivers nearly unanimously see their dashcam as a layer of protection against crime. A person who’s thinking of committing one is likely to think again when they realize that every move and sound is being recorded.
Check your state’s laws to see how yours must be mounted, and what you have to do to let passengers know they’re being recorded. You should also make sure the dashcam you buy can record what goes on both inside and outside of your vehicle. This helps to protect you from “they said, you said” situations no matter where they take place.
Dashcams can give a feeling of safety to delivery drivers, as well. A carjacker or aggressive driver will have their acts memorialized on your recorder and are likely to be deterred when they see your cam in action. Body cams are available if you want to keep customers from thinking they can get away with abusing you without putting it on your recorder. This Gridwise post will tell you more about dashcams and why they’re such an effective safety tool for drivers.
Self-care is also quite important. Get enough nutrition and sleep, so you’ll always be alert and able to follow the safety recommendations we’ve offered here. A body (and brain) that’s well taken care of will be prepared to stand strong in the face of any emergency.
What drivers have to say about safety
Any driver who’s been on the road for more than a day will tell you that safety is an issue. Even if nothing ever happens to directly threaten a driver, the mere idea of what could happen prompts drivers to take extra measures.
Some drivers make passengers ride in the back of the vehicle to keep some distance. Then, they also insist that they buckle their seatbelts. Once they hear the “click,” drivers can know that the passenger won’t make sudden moves without causing the sound of unbuckling the restraint.
Others get way more serious about their safety measures, and may install barriers between the front and back seats to act as a deterrent. There are pros and cons to this, but if you want to drive in urban areas that are known for being unsafe, this might be something you want to consider.
Drivers are forming advocacy groups focused on the issue of safety, and one of them, Justice for App Workers, offers recommendations such as confirming your rider’s identity before beginning the ride and avoiding permitting drunk passengers to get into your vehicle. You can read more comments from drivers in this article from Business Insider.
One more thing
We’ve already mentioned how Gridwise can help you with Gridwise Benefits and features Where to Drive and When to Drive, but there’s more! Track your mileage and earnings, get airport and event information, and gain access to a whole toolbox full of features that will make your driving gig safer, and more profitable!