Rideshare drivers and passengers face an increased risk of sexual and physical assault. Despite offering new safety features, Uber continues to face assault allegations.
Because of the increased risk of assault, survivors and advocates may question if Uber is safe for female drivers or passengers. Many assault survivors are now filing lawsuits against Uber to hold the company accountable.
Is It Safe For Women To Be Uber Drivers?
Since 2019, Uber has added a number of new safety features to their app. These include an in-app emergency button and a survivor support hotline. However, these features do not always function as advertised. Survivors who report the incidents to Uber often find the passenger remains active on the app.
Thus, many female drivers may feel the need to take extra precautions. For example, many female drivers avoid driving at night, even though the fares are higher. This limits the flexibility of rideshare driving that drew them to Uber in the first place.
Because of this, female drivers may make less money than male drivers. They may be forced to decide between their income or their safety.
“There are also women who only pick up at the airports or in certain neighborhoods. But that limits their income, as they spend a lot more time waiting between pickups.”
Some women purchase dashboard cameras for their vehicles. The cost typically runs from $100-$400. This makes it too expensive for some drivers. Others have started carrying pepper spray and other defensive weapons. Uber and Lyft have a “no weapons” policy. But, female drivers who do carry them have found it a useful deterrent.
“I just turn on the taser real quick, and that pretty much calms [harassing passengers] down.”
Despite the precautions, female drivers remain at risk of assault. For some victims, an assault can be deadly.
2022 | Christina Spicuzza Murdered While Driving For Uber
In February 2022, Christine Spicuzza was shot in the back of the head while driving for Uber. Spicuzza was originally reported missing after not returning home from her driving shift.
Footage from her dashcam showed Spicuzza picking up Calvin Crew. Crew drew a gun and ordered her to drive while he robbed her. The footage then ended abruptly.
Police found her body in her car. Spicuzza had been shot once in the head. Crew was later arrested and charged with homicide.
Driving For Lyft As A Woman
Around 21% of Lyft drivers are women. Driving for Lyft as a woman comes with many of the same risks as those taken by female Uber drivers. From 2017 to 2019, survivors reported 4,000 sexual assaults to Lyft. Like Uber, Lyft’s response included expanding in-app safety features. However, in some cases, these features have failed to increase driver safety.
2019 | Pregnant Lyft Driver Stabbed To Death
In Arizona, a pregnant Lyft driver was stabbed to death by her passenger in 2019. Kristina Howato picked up Fabian Durazo early in the morning. She dropped him off at an apartment complex. Instead of getting out of the car, Durazo began stabbing Howato with a knife.
Howato managed to exit the vehicle, but Durazo pursued her and continued the attack. He then stole the vehicle. Police were able to track the vehicle’s built-in GPS and locate and arrest Durazo. Howato was brought to a hospital where she and her unborn child were pronounced dead.
Is Uber Dangerous For Female Passengers?
The risks faced by female Uber drivers also apply to passengers. Uber’s US Safety Report found that, in cases of “non-consensual sexual penetration,” 92% of the victims were passengers. In general women are at a higher risk of sexual assault. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), one in five women are victims of attempted or completed rape.
Is Uber Safe For A Woman Alone?
Even when precautions are taken, women traveling alone using Uber may still be vulnerable to assault. In Seattle in 2021, a 13-year-old female passenger was raped by her Uber driver. The girl’s father called an Uber to drive her to her mother’s house. The father sent the mother photos of the Uber driver, as well as vehicle and trip details.
Shortly after departure, the driver ordered the passenger into the front seat and assaulted her. The survivor’s mother called 911 and brought her daughter to a hospital. Police arrested the driver 13 days later during a routine traffic stop.
The original destination for the ride had been altered to a spot 200 feet north of the mother’s house. According to Uber, the in-app RideCheck feature is supposed to provide help when a ride goes off-route. The app did not flag this deviation as suspicious.
Is Lyft Safe For Female Passengers?
Female Lyft passengers face the same risks as those taken by Uber passengers. Hundreds of passengers have filed lawsuits against Lyft. These lawsuits claim the company’s lack of effective safety measures made it easier for their assault to happen.
Considering Legal Action?
A Rideshare Assault Lawyer May Be Able to Help You
Safety Tips For Uber & Lyft Users
When an assault happens, it always happens due to the choices of the attacker. A victim is never at fault for their own sexual assault. But, there are steps that can be taken to increase safety for rideshare drivers and passengers alike.
Safety Tips For Drivers
- Only take rides in familiar, well-traveled areas.
- Consider purchasing a dashboard camera.
- Notify family and friends of how long you expect to be driving.
- Check-in regularly with family and friends between rides.
- Confirm passenger identities before pickup.
- Never make an unscheduled stop.
Safety Tips For Riders
- Confirm vehicle and driver details before entering a Lyft or Uber.
- Take rides with multiple friends if possible.
- Stay aware of your surroundings in case the driver deviates from the route.
- Text family and friends the details of your ride.
- Call 911 if you feel unsafe.
- Do not enter a building with your driver.
Note: The studies and sources referenced in this article do not differentiate between sex and gender identities. For this article, the author used “woman” and “female” as general terms for femme-identifying individuals to avoid misrepresenting source data.
Green, S. (2021, November 4). Kent Uber driver accused of sexually assaulting passenger, 13. The Seattle Times.
Griffith, J. (2019, January 28). Pregnant Lyft driver in Arizona stabbed to death by passenger, police say. NBC News.
Montgomery, B. (2022, February 19). Dashcam Footage Shows Uber Driver and Mom of 4 Begging Her Killer for Mercy: Cops. The Daily Beast.
North, A. (2019, December 7). It’s not just passengers being assaulted in Ubers. Drivers are at risk, too. Vox.
NSVRC. (2015). Statistics. Retrieved February 28, 2022.
Uber. (2019, December 5). 2017-2018 US Safety Report. [PDF]
Uber (N.D.) Is Uber Safe For Riders? Retrieved February 28, 2022.