Here’s Why I No Longer Feel Comfortable Taking Ubers With Male Drivers
I remember feeling relieved when ride-sharing apps hit the market a few years ago. When I first moved to New York in early 2012, fighting to get a cab back to Brooklyn from Manhattan was the ultimate hustle. First of all, hailing a cab in and of itself was its own obstacle. I learned from native New Yorkers that a lot of NYC taxi drivers hated picking up Black folk because they feared they wouldn’t pay the tab. Many yellow cab drivers would also not pick up Black people because they didn’t want to travel to the outer boroughs from beloved Manhattan. There were times I successfully grabbed a cab, and when I got inside and told them I was headed to Brooklyn the driver would illegally ask me to leave. It was a mess.
So when I learned of Uber and downloaded the app, I relished in its features. The glory of typing in my address (no more struggling with directions) and having a car pick me up right at my location had me lounging in convenience bliss.
However, the benefits of the handy app are quickly becoming outweighed by the current the fears I have when I decide to jump into a ride.
I’ve started to utilize the UBERPOOL feature more often recently because, well, I don’t have the money for my own ride. I noticed that the creepy vibe I get from male drivers began when I started sitting up front because fellow passengers were in the back. Somehow, sitting in the back gave me some sort of theoretical barrier between myself and the driver. But sitting in the front of a stranger’s personal car, with a man I don’t know, instantly felt uncomfortable.
When I was the last drop off in an UBERPOOL and sitting in the passengers seat, I noticed a lot of male drivers would start making comments about my physical appearance, my attire, or even go as far as asking for my number.
When we stop at red lights they would go “You’re just so beautiful, I don’t know what to do.” Or “I wish I had a lady like you.” Or “Do you have a boyfriend?”
Fortunately, my experiences have stopped at just harrasing comments, but I couldn’t help but feel fearful and vulnerable as I sat in the dark in a car with a man who has total control over our destination. I’ve heard other horror stories from my girlfriends, from being sent unsolicited d*ck pics, to someone reaching out to touch them. Hell, I even heard a story of a woman being locked in the car by an Uber drive for refusing to give him her number.
These personal anecdotes are compounded by actual data that shows 103 Uber drivers in the country have been accused of a form of sexual assault in the past four years, according to CNN.
While the app’s execs insist they run background checks and eliminate candidates who have serious criminal convictions, it’s clear that there needs to be a deeper vetting process into who they allow to drive around passengers. I’ve noticed little changes on the app like prompts that ask “are you ok” if your car has been stalled too long, or allowing passengers to designate an emergency contact, but I am having a hard time seeing how those small modifications would actually help in a crisis. We deserve more.
In the gap between fear and progress, I am hopeful female driver/female passenger only apps, like one being used in New Delhi, India, will pave the way for similar models in the US.
Shailja Mittal created ride sharing service Koala Kabs because she didn’t want her daughter riding alone in the car with male drivers. In Pakistan, there is a similar female catering car service called Pink Taxi. The option to opt out of being driven by men is definitely something I would buy into, whatever the cost. Nothing is more valuable than my safety. My life.