Technology and smartphone apps have changed the way most of us gain access to taxi services. The E-Hailing taxi services industry has become a major role player in public transport.
Even though it is very convenient, mostly well-regulated and safe, the E-Hailing taxi industry has also at times fallen victim to reports of crime and attacks on both drivers and passengers.
It is important to share how these operators are addressing safety concerns and how riders can enhance their safety while using these services.
With a bit more safety awareness and a few precautions, we can make the roads safer for everyone!
E-Hailing Services and Vehicle and Driver Fitness
E-Hailing services continually strive to improve safety features. Some of the most important measures on the “Driver-Partner “side are:
- The screening and vetting of drivers to ensure passengers are being transported by professional drivers.
- Cross-checking the drivers’ backgrounds on databases for licensing and criminality.
- A fingerprint-based check through the government’s fingerprint database
- Checking in South Africa for a South African Professional Drivers Permit
- Requiring a criminal record police clearance certificate.
- A driving evaluation of drivers.
- Driver fatigue monitoring- after 12 hours drivers are prompted to go offline for six hours so they can rest
- Speed measurement -Alerts to drivers to maintain a safe speed
- Vehicle roadworthiness – Vehicles are inspected annually as well as checked for roadworthiness after any road crashes.
- Some E-Hailing services offer injury protection insurance, which covers passengers and drivers in the event of an accident or crime-related incident during a trip.
Technology and Safety with E-Hailing Services
New technologies are continually developed and improved to enhance safety before, during, and after every ride.
Take some time to get to know your preferred provider, its app and all the features, and keep your app updated so the latest safety features are included in your version.
We would like to share some of these added benefits on the e-hailing apps of some of these providers:
- Standard features are photos of drivers and vehicle registration details.
- You can see the driver’s first name, photo, license plate number, type of vehicle as well as vehicle colour.
- When a rider requests a trip, he might be able to see the driver rating and the driver experience in terms of the number of trips driven.
- Sharing the Trip: Technology has made it possible for trips to be tracked using GPS. While en route, you’re able to monitor your trip in the app, as well as the option to share your Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) with loved ones.
- Family and friends can keep track of where you are on the trip, the estimated time of arrival and the specific route you will be taking on your trip.
- Support options: Some services offer a 24-hour toll-free passenger support contact that can be accessed through the Help menu or by clicking on the safety shield – bottom right.
- Incident response options: In the case of safety incidents or accidents, the Incident Response Team can be contacted by using “I had a safety issue” on the Help menu. They will call you back. On some apps, the service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- An SOS button that will connect you to emergency services.
Selecting a Safe Ride
Safety starts before you climb into the e-hailing taxi:
- Get to know your app – take the time to review the safety features offered by the specific ridesharing app you’re using.
- Before ordering your ride, make sure you know exactly where your destination is.
- Check the driver’s rating. Always check your driver’s rating before agreeing to hop in his (or much more rarely, her) car. Some Apps have a rating system for their drivers and this makes it easier for the riders to decide if they want to proceed or cancel their booking.
- Familiarise yourself with the route and approximately how long it should take to get there.
- Check your car. Before getting inside any vehicle, ensure you check the registration number, make and model of the car. Does it correspond with the info shown on the app?
- Check your driver and the driver’s photo and make sure it’s the same person before even opening the car door.
- Ask the driver to give you his name, and ask him who he is looking for – it should be you!
- If any of the info doesn’t match up, rather cancel your ride and request another one.
Safety from Crime
E-hailing hasn’t been incident-free in SA cities with stories of passengers and drivers being forced out of cars by metered taxi drivers, allegations of attacks and theft. It is important to keep in mind that criminals are on the prowl all of the time!
- When you’re ready to request a ride, it’s important to avoid spending unnecessary time outside (especially if you are alone) with your phone in your hand.
- Wait for your ride in a safe location, preferably indoors, until the app alerts you that the driver has arrived.
- Avoid dark areas, and don’t wait unaccompanied.
- Keep your windows locked and don’t have valuables in plain sight – a criminal may decide to put their hand through the window and take your tablet or phone.
- Don’t flash your personal belongings. Once you’ve entered the car, make sure you keep your personal belongings close. Showing what you own only attracts unnecessary attention. Apart from that, keeping your stuff close also makes it easier for you to grab your things and leave quickly, in case you need to end the ride abruptly.
- Don’t forget to check for suspicious vehicles at your destination or follow you on a dark and lonely road.
- Trust your instincts. When travelling with a driver-partner, you should always be aware of your surroundings, and trust your instincts and judgement if you feel that something isn’t right.
- You can send a screenshot of your booking page with the driver, car, and route information to a friend or family member. You might even want to call and have a brief chat with them so your driver knows that someone is expecting you home by a certain period.
- If you feel uncomfortable in any way during the trip, you can ask the driver to stop at the first safe spot. If the driver refuses, try and alert someone either by sending a message requesting help or calling the police.
- Sitting in the back seat. If you’re on your own, rather get in the backseat. Not only does this give you and your driver some personal space, but it also allows you to get out on either side of the car if needed.
- Don’t Get Personal. There’s no need to share any of your private information such as your address, contact number or other sensitive info with your driver.
- Be prepared for any given situation, so think of possible steps you could take should you need to escape a dangerous situation. Familiarise yourself with the inside of the car the moment you get in – where’s the door handle and any door locks? Also, have your phone in your hand and ready to send out an emergency message if needed.
- Avoid negotiating private “Off-App” cash deals/ trips. There is safety to be found in having trips recorded with approved drivers!
Passenger Safety when using E-Hailing Taxis
It is important to keep in mind for passenger safety all the rules of the road need to be adhered to.
- Drivers need to adhere to the rules of the road for example, by sticking to the speed limit, not driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and not texting while driving.
- Drivers should always take a break if tired.
- Both drivers and passengers should wear seatbelts – Drivers should avoid trying to cram in extra people when there aren’t enough seatbelts.
- Remember the back seat is no safer!
- Remember, that there’s no need to share your phone number or other contact information with your driver.
- In some locations, due to violence aimed at e-hailing drivers by competitor metered taxis, passengers sit on the front seat when travelling alone in an e-hailed ride.
- Usually, the best is for riders to sit in the back which is also the preference of most. [ During Covid this is also the advised practice]
- Drivers can also be as wary of riders as riders are of drivers, so if you do sit in the back, which may be better for your safety, sit on the left side (behind the front passenger seat) rather than directly behind the driver, which is ostensibly better for the driver’s sense of safety.
- Riders should refrain from bringing alcohol or banned substances into the vehicle, and should not ask a driver to go faster than the speed limit.
- It is advised for children to be supervised.
Kindness and Mutual Respect during the ride with E-Hailing Services
Some providers share with both riders and drivers “Community guidelines” with guidance on how driver-partners and riders should behave and treat each other during a trip. When drivers use e-hailing services they do more than simply drive: they’re sharing their car, space and time with passengers. While most riders show drivers respect, this is unfortunately not always the case.
- Both drivers and riders owe each other mutual respect and kindness.
- Mutual respect is key and under no circumstances should riders or drivers disrespect the other.
- Drivers should take pride in keeping their vehicles in good condition for riders to be comfortable.
- Riders should respect the vehicle they are in and should leave the vehicle in the condition in which they found it.
- Do not climb in the vehicle when you feel like vomiting and do not leave rubbish inside the vehicle.
- Unruly behaviour such as damaging the vehicle is not tolerated.
- Using bad language is also not allowed. Being aggressive or discriminatory can also get a rider banned from using the app.
- We live in a diverse world of races, religions, genders and political affiliations. Drivers and riders should NOT discriminate!
- Although friendly conversation doesn’t do any harm during a trip, respect should be upheld at all times. Both riders and drivers should give each other space and should not make each other feel uncomfortable.
- There should be no sexual conduct between drivers and riders. That includes flirting and touching from both parties. Another physical contact such as hitting or attempting to hurt a driver is also forbidden.
Feedback and assisting other Riders
Riders can assist other riders by sharing their experiences
- You should always give feedback on how your trip went. This helps improve the e-hailing service for everyone, maintain a high-quality service and provide accountability.
- If you have a bad experience during a particular trip, it’s important to provide feedback via the app. This helps both the e-hailing company as well as future passengers to identify a possible problem-driver.
- When people know that they are been rated, they become conscious of their behaviour and become accountable for their actions.
- Passengers can rate drivers for each trip at the end of the trip, usually out of five stars.
- Ride-sharing platforms can ban drivers with low ratings, so it is in a drivers’ interest to keep their rating high.
- Ratings can also be disputed, so if you give a driver a low rating you need good reasons, such as exceeding the speed limit, reckless driving or making calls using a hand-held phone.
- Road crashes, incorrect fair charges or arguments should be reported by simply tapping the help button in the app. There is a customer support team that is always ready to assist.
- Reported drivers will be investigated. Depending on the nature of the issue the rider’s account may be placed on hold during the investigation. Should the concern involve a serious offence such as involving violence, sexual misconduct, harassment, discrimination, or illegal activity the account can be deactivated and authorities will be notified.
Originally posted on Arrive Alive