Prevention Corner: How Ridesharing Apps Can Improve Safety Measures

Nov 02nd, 2022

By Sarah Miller, SALI Intern

Ridesharing apps, like Uber, Lyft, and Curb, among others, have grown in popularity in the last decade and many people use them to travel. In 2017, Uber began tracking incidents of sexual violence and then decided to publicly share this data to increase transparency, with Lyft following suit in 2021. In 2020, Uber reported 998 incidents of sexual assault in 2020 and 2,826 incidents in 2019. (Uber, 2022). The large decrease from 2019 to 2020 may be related to significantly decreased ridership due to Covid-19 (Lenthang, 2022). Riders were the accused party 43% of the time in sexual assaults from 2019 to 2020, similar to the 45% Uber's 2017-2018 report. Drivers were the accused party 56% of the time across the five categories of sexual assault. Across 2019 and 2020, for non-consensual sexual penetration, the survivor was the rider in about 91% of incident reports, the drivers were survivors in about 7% of reports and in about 3% of incidents a third party was the perpetrator (Uber, 2022).

Although most of the ridesharing apps have some built-in safety features, this data shows that ridesharing apps have more work to do to increase safety for their customers and staff. On both Uber and Lyft, a passenger can press a button and it will call for emergency help, but the average response time recorded is around seven minutes (Kahlich, 2021). This function is not available on Curb. Passengers can also end their ride early, but then they could be forced to wait on the side of the road while calling another ride. Although the rider is refunded for the first ride, this safety measure could still put someone who is already in a vulnerable position in danger while having to wait for the second driver’s arrival. Another strong safety feature that most of the apps provide is the ability to share one’s ride with someone, so that another person can track the passenger’s location in real time as they travel.

Ridesharing apps are different from taxicabs, as they frequently have different hiring procedures and requirements of their drivers, with taxicabs having more stringent standards. Traditional taxicab companies have much more control over the hiring process, and also have more interaction with their drivers because drivers don’t own the vehicles. Uber and Lyft perform some form of a criminal background check on their drivers, and their policies state that they consistently review conviction reports nationwide (Uber, 2022). Outside of performing these background checks (which are frequently completed by a third party), most of all the other parts of the application and hiring process do not involve in-person contact between the candidate and a representative of the company, leaving much room for unfamiliarity with the person the company is hiring. 

Moving forward, all ridesharing apps could add a number of features to their company policies to increase safety. One feature that researchers have suggested for ridesharing companies is to require drivers to use dash cameras while working (Benish, et al, 2018). Drivers for the respective apps would need to remember to turn the camera on at the start of each ride. While this increased data could be helpful, if a sexual assault were captured on video, stronger policies would need to be in place to ensure that this sensitive and traumatic content is not widely available or public and the survivor’s privacy is protected. Furthermore, many dash cameras allow users to ‘make it live’ which would also mean that a passenger could share the stream with a trusted friend or family member, who could watch the passenger travel in real time. Another recommended safety feature for ride sharing companies would be to require their drivers to keep the indoor lights on after dark. This would increase visibility of the inside of the vehicle to both general traffic and would also work in conjunction well with the dash camera feature.

In addition, ridesharing apps could require live fingerprinting instead of private fingerprinting to assure more uniform, detailed, and thorough results. The main difference between the two is that live fingerprinting is fully digital and automatically sends a report to the Department of Justice, whereas private fingerprinting is likely a paper and ink print. While both are effective, the live fingerprinting is more monitored, standardized, and regulated, and therefore provides a better chance for more accurate and responsive results (Benish, et al, 2018).

Other requirements for the ridesharing companies that should be considered are mandatory display of the ridesharing company’s sticker on the front and rear of the vehicle, the onus should be on the driver to ask or state ‘I’m here for ___’, not the passenger, driving hour limits to prevent driving fatigue, companies adding a distress alarm feature to the app function that could send a signal to either a listed emergency contact or to law enforcement, and finally require users to set up emergency contacts, which is currently an option on both Uber and Lyft but not a requirement.

While all of these safety measures are important and hopefully forthcoming, in the meantime, there are also steps that passengers can take to increase safety when using ridesharing apps. First, passengers should confirm that the license plate and description of the car matches the license plate and description that appears on the app. Additionally, while the burden should be on the driver to state who they are picking up, passengers can limit the amount of personally identifiable information they share with the driver when verifying they are approaching the correct vehicle. For instance, when getting into a car, a passenger can ask the driver ‘Who are you here for?’ to ensure that they are getting in the correct car without providing their information to someone else. 

Ridesharing apps have a responsibility to protect their employees and users. Uber and Lyft have created safety policies and handbooks, but they only supply requirements and practical guidance. As we enter a post-Covid world and given the rapidly changing technology today, ridesharing apps can and should be doing more.


Benish, C., Ansar-UI-Haque, Y., Samar, E., and Elhadi, S. (2018). Passenger Safety in Ride-Sharing Services. Elsevier. Retrieved from:

Kahlich, S. (June 21, 2021). Improving User Safety for Ride Sharing Apps. Movmi, Pretty Deadly Self Defense. Retrieved from: 

Lenthang, M. (July 1, 2022). Uber reports 141 rapes, 998 sexual assault incidents overall in 2020, despite pandemic ridership decline. NBC News. Retrieved from:

Uber (June 30, 2022). Uber US Safety Report. Uber Technologies, Inc., 7. Retrieved from:

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