How To Deal With Drunk Uber Or Lyft Passengers


Part of the fun of rideshare is that there’s no end to the types of passengers you can pick up. Every driver has a story. One driver relates that to this day he is sure he had a hit man for the mob in his car. Another favorite is a driver who picked up several players from a woman’s softball squad in Palm Springs. The ladies had spent the evening toasting their tournament victory, and they still had some celebrating to do. 

By the way, all these rides actually happened. 

The holidays are coming, though, and ‘tis the season of office Christmas parties and celebrations. Students are home from college, relatives are visiting from out of town, and there is lots of partying. Every rideshare has picked up a passenger who has had too much to drink. Most of them are mundane and uneventful, but occasionally, a passenger is belligerent, argumentative, and combative. It happens. We’ve all seen the YouTube videos. 

Just as bad is the drunk passenger who vomits in your car. The rideshare companies have policies that compensate drivers so they can get their cars clean, but often vomit is the gift that keeps on giving: you can’t rid your car of the smell. 

This blog post discusses how to deal with passengers who have been drinking and become a problem, and how to avoid them altogether. Topics include

  • emesis bags, a rideshare driver’s best friend
  • deciding to pick up someone who has been drinking
  • once they are in the car
  • dealing with belligerent drunks
  • other tips for dealing with passengers who have been drinking
  • taking advantage of Gridwise

Emesis bags, a rideshare driver’s best friend

Recently, Gridwise ran a blog post titled Basic Business Advice for Rideshare and Delivery Drivers. One piece of Lyft and Uber driver advice was to carry emesis bags. If you are unfamiliar with them, these are disposable, heavy-duty barf bags, large and sturdy enough to handle the sickest passengers. Amazon carries packs of 50 for less than $20. Many drivers place them in the side door pockets of their car. If a passenger looks like they might get sick, get a bag in their hands. 

Also, check out the car as they are getting out. One driver tells how he picked up a bachelorette party one night. The girls had all been drinking and were making a lot of noise in the car, but the driver could smell something in addition to perfume. After they got out, he discovered that one of the girls had thrown up in the storage box in the center console in the far back seat of his van. She closed the lid to hide it. The girls cleaned up the mess, and the maid of honor tipped him $40 cash so he wouldn’t report it to the rideshare company. 

Deciding to pick up someone who has been drinking

There is nothing in either Lyft’s or Uber’s rideshare driver rules, terms of service, or community guidelines that require you to take all passengers. Yes, it may affect your acceptance rate (we’ll discuss how to handle that). It means the loss of income, too. But the reality is that you are free to cancel the ride if you don’t feel safe or think there is a good chance this passenger may get sick in your car. If you can, the best time to make this decision is before they enter the car. 

Assessing passengers before they get into the car

Before you pick up a passenger, linger back and take a few seconds to check them out. If one of the passengers is getting sick in the gutter or they have already vomited on their clothes, it is a good indication they will continue getting sick in your car. Likewise, if they are belligerent, arguing with their friends or other people, or look as if they have been in a fight, they might carry that attitude into your car. If you have not contacted the passenger, consider canceling the ride and driving away. If you have contacted the passenger(s), politely and briefly explain your reason and drive away. Do not engage the passenger(s) any more than needed. You don’t want the hassle of an angry drunk yelling, screaming, and trying to get into your car. 

What to do if a drunk slips past you and now sits in your back seat?

Sometimes, you can’t help picking up a drunk passenger. Perhaps you forget to lock your doors after the last drop-off, or in the chaos of closing time outside a crowded bar, passengers pile into your car, and you let a drunk slip through. You might also misjudge just how drunk someone is. Sooner or later, you will get a drunk passenger. If you detect this passenger before you start driving, make sure they have an emesis bag. Also, if you can, position them next to a door. If they get sick and you need to pull over, they can get out quickly. Inform passengers that if they do get sick in your car, Lyft or Uber charges them for the clean-up. 

Check the car when they get out

If you have a car full of passengers who have been drinking, take the time to get out and check the car when you drop them off. Passengers who get sick in your car will often not tell you or will try to hide it. Take this time to check for items left behind, too. Passengers who have had too much to drink are likely to forget cell phones, purses, and other items. 

Once they are in the car

Beyond the passenger who’s vomited in your car, how do you handle someone who’s had a few? Here are a few tips and considerations.

Take control of your car

It’s your car. You call the shots and enforce vehicle rules and etiquette for your back seat. Be confident and sure of yourself when interacting with passengers. Dress nicely. You don’t have to wear a tie or a skirt (some drivers do), but slacks and a shirt signal that you are all business and don’t have time for foolishness. If you wear cut-off sweats and a sleeveless T-shirt (some drivers dress like that), be prepared for less respect. Think about your choice of music. Head-banging rock ‘n roll may be to your tastes, but it can get someone excited who has had a few drinks. Lean towards something easy listening. A passenger who perceives you are in control of your car, even if they have been drinking, is less likely to attempt shenanigans. 

Be friendly

The best drivers are personable and engage their passengers. Ask questions about them. Where have you been tonight? What was it like there? Was the band any good? How else are you spending your night out? Your goal is to form a bond and distract them from anything that appears to bother them. Likewise, keep a clean car. If someone perceives that you care about your car, they are more likely to respect it, too. 

Don’t take the bait

People who have been drinking may try to goad you, challenging you to contradict them. Don’t engage. Perhaps it’s the route you’re taking, the car you’re driving, or anything else they can think of. If the conversation goes in that direction, don’t fall for it. It is best to stay calm and be polite. 

“I picked up a couple from a bar one night,” said one driver. “They were going across town. After a few minutes, I realized the man had been drinking quite a bit more than the woman. I was following the GPS, but he grumbled to his girlfriend that I was taking them on the long route to rack up the fare. I wasn’t going to fall into that trap. I didn’t say a word. They got out of the car and I saw that the restaurant they were going to was closed for the night. I didn’t care. I kept on going. I fired that passenger.”

Dealing with belligerent drunks

Occasionally, despite all your best efforts, you get someone in your car who has had too much to drink. Throwing up in your car is bad enough, but even worse is a belligerent drunk. Here are some tips on how to handle one. 

Lay down the rules quickly

Anyone who is a parent or a supervisor knows one thing for sure. Failure to say something about objectionable behavior is often interpreted as tacit approval. As soon as someone misbehaves in your car—yelling, kicking, or hitting the back of the seat, arguing with their fellow passengers—let them know it is unacceptable. The sooner you tell them there is no tolerance for misbehavior, the better off you are. If a passenger is yelling in your car, explain that it is important to keep the distractions down. Everyone wants this to be a safe trip. Is a passenger pounding on the seat or dashboard? Explain to them that this is your car and that you provide a service. If they break or damage something, the rideshare company will bill them for it. 

Don’t hesitate to terminate the ride

This is the last resort, but if they persist, end the ride on your app and then tell them to get out. That way, they can’t tell you they will behave (because at this point, they won’t). The ride is already over. Choose a well-lit area with lots of people (witnesses). If you know where the police station is, stop there. If you get out of your car, make sure you have your keys. 

Most importantly, do not hesitate to call 911. If at all possible, do not engage them physically. 

Don’t hesitate to call the police

Better yet, keep 911 on speed dial. 

Be familiar with self-defense

Several months ago, Gridwise featured a blog post titled How to Protect Yourself as a Rideshare Driver. Check out this piece. True, the rideshare companies forbid drivers to carry weapons, but there are other things you can use to defend yourself. For example, you can purchase a small, sturdy flashlight at a hardware store. It’s not just great for checking out addresses on a dark street; the little device is also handy to slam against someone’s hands or head if they grab you from the back seat. Women commonly carry perfume in spray bottles, which doubles as mace to blind someone temporarily. As a male driver, your explanation is that a female passenger left it in your car earlier that night. 

Be cautious, though. Physical violence is always a last resort. 

Other tips on dealing with passengers who have been drinking

The quiet drunk who passes out

It is rare to have a drunk passenger causing problems or attacking you. Having a passenger fall asleep in your car is much more common. If there are other passengers in the car, a spouse or a friend, let them awaken the sleeping person. If it is just you and the passenger, a change in the speed, such as when you pull off the freeway and onto city streets, is often enough to rouse them. Start calling their name when the rideshare app shows you two or three minutes away from the destination. If that doesn’t work, try shaking their arm or shoulder (by the way, this is one of those times a dashcam is vital for documenting evidence that you were not inappropriate). If you feel it is necessary, knock on the door of the home where you are taking them. This might be a problem for a late-night drop-off, so use your good judgment. Finally, you may have to call the police. 

Open containers

Some states allow open containers in a car, but Lyft and Uber have policies against it. If one of your passengers has a drink, either in a glass or a party cup, ask them to dump it. If they say it is not alcohol, explain that the rideshare company has a policy of no drinks of any kind in the car.

Pay attention to passenger ratings

Both Uber and Lyft allow drivers to rate passengers, and you should pay attention to those ratings. If someone has a lower-than-average rating, there is a reason for it. Again, it is lost income, but it might save you a considerable headache. Besides, you can count on another ride if it is bar time on a weekend night. 

Likewise, if you have a problem passenger, leave a rating. If you have any doubts, ask yourself, “Do I want another driver to get this problem passenger?”

Report a cancellation of a drunk passenger promptly

If you see the signs of a drunken passenger and you decide to cancel, promptly report it through the app to the rideshare company and ask them not to count it against you. They usually work with drivers in this situation. 

Likewise, immediately report problem passengers to the rideshare company

If you have a particularly bad encounter with a drunk passenger, immediately report it to the rideshare company. First, they should know that it happened. Second, if that passenger complains about you, the fact that you made a report promptly after the ride is more likely to be interpreted in your favor. 


Dashcams are vital for your car. They record what happened, especially with passengers who drank too much and are now in your car. Amazon features numerous dashcams, from simple to elaborate. Check them out. 

Floor mats

The immediate problem when someone gets sick in your car is getting it cleaned. The other issue is that your shift is over. You can’t pick up more passengers in a car that reeks of vomit. That means lost money, and if it happens early in your shift, it could mean a lot of lost money. Floor mats are a solution.

“In thousands of rides, I only had two people get sick in my car,” said one California driver. “Both times, the floor mat saved me. I picked up the floor mat, put it in my trunk, and continued driving the rest of the night. I hosed the mat off the next morning. As for the smell, it wasn’t anything that half a can of Febreze couldn’t disguise.”

Keep latex or nitrile gloves in your car

This doesn’t need explanation, other than sometimes people leave something icky in your car. 

Taking advantage of Gridwise

Besides offering sage advice on handling passengers who have been drinking, Gridwise may not be able to help you when you encounter these problems. Gridwise can, however, make the rest of your rideshare driving much easier – drivers across the country are using it to help inform their Uber/Lyft driving strategy!

By taking advantage of features such as When to Drive and Where to Drive, which include peak times for concerts and sporting events in your market, as well as airport arrivals and departures. You get more rides. If you have already had a successful night, you’ll be in a better position to pass on those questionable passengers outside a bar at 2:15 am.  

And while you’re out at night, make sure you’re not overspending on gas – Gridwise gives rideshare and delivery drivers a gas discount of up to $50/month!

Save more with Gridwise


Related Posts

Download Gridwise today

For iOS and Android