How to stay safe as a female driver

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You might be a female Uber, Lyft or delivery driver, or perhaps you know someone who is. Although safety is obviously a concern for every driver, personal security is especially worrisome for many women out on the road alone. This article takes a look at safety issues for female drivers. Let’s examine:

  • Female drivers: who they are and why they do gig driving
  • Personal safety issues: power up a sense of security
  • Auto issues: keep your car reliable and well-equipped

Female drivers: Who they are and why they do gig driving

While the rideshare and delivery driving population aren’t dominated by females, women make up a pretty hefty chunk of the driver population. The graph below, excerpted from this Gridwise blog post, shows that only 21 percent of all drivers in the Gridwise sample population are women.

Female drivers comprise all age groups and have a variety of reasons for choosing gig driving as a way to make money. Many simply drive because they enjoy it. Others do it as an easy way to make money on their own time. 

Some women drive because they’re on a fixed income or don’t earn enough to make ends meet from another part-time job. Gig driving provides them with the ability to earn much-needed income with regular deposits to their bank accounts.

Female gig drivers may also be college or grad school students who need to supplement their stipends or professionals who find themselves between jobs or in the midst of a career shift. They may also be ordinary people who have the extraordinary motivation, energy, and strategic inclination to be a gig driver.

All in all, female gig drivers have the same reasons for driving men do – with some differences. No one will say that men aren’t subjected to sexual harassment, but it happens to women far more often. 

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 83 percent of women have experienced some form of sexual harassment and/or assault in their lives, compared with 43 percent for men. Maybe that’s why the friends and family members of so many female gig drivers are concerned about their loved ones being on the road.

Personal safety issues: Power up a sense of security

Fortunately, the rideshare and delivery companies provide a solid first line of safety for all drivers. The apps usually have a fast and easy way to make a direct call to 911;  many of them permit drivers to allow friends and families to follow the drivers through the app. Lyft’s in-app feature allows drivers to select trusted contacts to see their approximate GPS location, and Uber’s “Follow My Ride” lets people of your choice see where you are on a live map, your trip status, and other details. These are both useful ways for drivers to feel less “alone” while on the road.

Yet as helpful as these features are, they don’t solve all the problems. Women can often feel threatened, even by a suggestive conversation. During the summer of 2018, Jody Pagliocco, an Uber driver in southern Maine, was driving a male passenger home from a bar. The road they were on was heavily wooded and dark, the man was drunk, and Pagliocco was feeling very uncomfortable. “He made a joke about not being a serial killer,” Pagliocco told Bloomberg. “Then he started talking about sexual stuff.” All she could think was, “What if he tries to grab or touch me?”

After the frightening incident, Pagliocco had to take a few days off from driving, which resulted in lost income. And the fact is, some passengers do reach out to touch female gig drivers, and it can be extremely uncomfortable – and dangerous – when it happens. 

Similarly, female delivery drivers face the threat of being harassed by delivery customers in the doorway. Many have reported having to navigate some creepy characters while walking to the delivery destination from their vehicles. There’s no doubt about it: Women need to protect themselves, both physically and legally, from such incidents.

Be alert and stay strong

Personal safety is no joke. For their own protection, women should develop skills that will make it far less likely that they’ll be singled out as victims. If you’re a woman, here are some suggestions that will increase your likelihood of staying safe, and if necessary, defending yourself in a dangerous situation.

Use your instincts. Don’t ignore those messages or remarks that make you feel unsafe. If a potential passenger looks dangerous or even a little bit creepy, keep your distance. Don’t be afraid to cancel a ride; your safety is far more important than your driver cancellation rate. You can always report your reason for canceling to your company.

Maintain a “strictly business” attitude. The way you present yourself as a driver can speak volumes about what you will – and absolutely will not – tolerate.

Be alert. If you’re parked on a lonely street, look all around you to make sure there’s no one suspicious who might see you as a target.

Carry yourself with confidence. Whether you’re walking to your vehicle or dropping off a delivery, keep your head up and walk with a purpose; don’t let yourself be distracted. When it looks like you know where you’re going, and that you have a strong sense of self-confidence, you’re far less likely to be marked as a victim.

Consider self-defense training. It is against company policy, and in many cases, illegal, to carry weapons while you’re driving for rideshare or delivery, so that’s not what we mean here. We’re talking self-defense classes and martial arts schools that can help you develop skills and “street smarts.” You’ll learn as much or more about how to get out of a situation as you will about actual bodily defense or hand-to-hand combat, and it’s well worth the money and effort. Plus, it’s a great way to stay in shape!

Report any and all incidents to your driving platform. If a passenger harasses or touches you, report it to your company. They will deal with the customer, and probably terminate their privileges to use the app. You have the right to refuse a ride or ask a passenger to leave your vehicle if you feel the least bit unsafe. Your company should, and probably will, support your decision.

Know where the safe spots are

Every good driver is familiar with his or her driving area, but for women, this is even more important. Learn the street names and localities of the safer neighborhoods, and do everything you can to stay in them. 

Of course, you don’t want to deny someone a ride just because they live in an unsafe area. But, if you don’t feel confident about where you’re going or where you might end up, you’ll want to steer clear of dangerous neighborhoods and towns. 

If you’re still learning more about life in your locality, it’s safest to stick to the busiest parts of town where there are more people around. You can try to follow surges, but this might not be the best way to go. Often, prices are highest in areas where many drivers are reluctant to drive.

A better way to know the best and busiest areas is to use the Where to Drive feature, a Gridwise-specific feature that will be launching soon. Sneak peak: with Where to Drive, you’ll get graphics that show you the busiest areas in your town – historically, as well as in the moment, as you can see here:

Drive at safer times

If your schedule allows you to choose when you can drive most safely, certainly think about that. For example, it might be okay to be out until midnight or later on a weekend because a lot of people will be out and about. But, on a weeknight in an urban environment that might be dangerous, empty streets could spell trouble. 

To help you out here, Gridwise launched a new feature called When to Drive. This feature uses data from actual Gridwise drivers to produce informational graphics that tell you when the most profitable (and busiest) times to drive are in your area. Here’s a sample:

As long as we’re talking about Gridwise, the app does a whole lot more for you. With the “Ultimate Rideshare and Delivery Assistant,” working with you, you’ll also get access to these features

  • Airport information: arrivals, departures, and queue lengths at your location
  • Weather: current information and weather alerts
  • Traffic: traffic alerts
  • Gas deals: save up to $0.25 per gallon with Gridwise Gas
  • Event information: everything you need to know about local events

Obviously, knowing where to drive and when to drive are great ways for women drivers to stay safe. In addition to that, we have this:

Important tip from a successful female gig driver: Always have your GPS programmed to take you to a busy place, such as the cultural district or an area with a lot of restaurants and bars. That way, if you have to drop off a passenger or delivery in a quiet, sketchy-looking place, you can turn off your driving app and get to a safer location with ease.

Auto issues: Keep your car reliable and well-equipped

Another concern on the minds of female gig drivers is getting a flat tire or a mechanical breakdown in unsafe areas. Your vehicle usually manages to get you where you’re going, but when it doesn’t, there could be lots of trouble. Whether you’re on a lonely country road or in the middle of an unsafe urban pocket of high-crime activity, it’s hard to be comfortable there alone with a vehicle that’s immobilized.

This is why it’s so important to keep your vehicle properly maintained. That means checking your tires and making sure you’re on schedule with oil changes, belt inspections, and so forth. Yes, it costs money and takes time to do all that, but it’s worth it. If you get stuck somewhere that’s risky or scary, you’ll wish you’d forked over the few bucks it takes to keep your vehicle maintained properly.

One way to make sure you’ll always have backup is to get road assistance service. AAA is a very popular and inexpensive option. Some rideshare and delivery companies also offer their own roadside service, usually as part of their driver rewards programs, such as this one for Uber drivers. Take the panic out of getting stuck with a dead battery by knowing help can be on its way with just a phone call. Roadside service is a commonsense choice, particularly for female drivers.

Equipping your car with certain tools can also make your life safer and easier. Here are some suggested supplies:

  • Jumper cables or battery charger
  • Tire gauge
  • Spare tire (and knowledge of how to change a flat)
  • Tool kit
  • Hand warmers
  • Water
  • Snack food
  • Wiper fluid
  • Motor oil
  • A blanket and/or an extra coat 

These supplies, while they might take up some room in your vehicle, can literally save your life. You’ll want to consider not only what might happen if someone attacked you but also how you can protect yourself if you’re stranded in extreme conditions. Waiting for the tow truck in the middle of a hot desert or blizzard-blocked highway could make those snacks and protective clothing well worth the few square feet of space they’ll take up in your vehicle.

At Gridwise, we encourage women to be courageous and strong about reaping the many benefits of working as a gig driver. That’s why we seek to empower you with the information you need to stay safe in every way while you’re out there watching your earnings grow.

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