How safe are we really? It's hard to know when you hear about an Uber driver gunning down six people in Kalamazoo, Michigan between rides. He had a 4.73 rating out of 5.0, and had zero traffic violations since 2006. Granted, he did have six speeding tickets before 2006, which should have raised eyebrows, especially if one's function is to move passengers in a vehicle.
I'd like to give some perspective from a driver's point of view regarding what could have made the Kalamazoo killer go postal and what you can do as a passenger to stay safer. There is nothing that can condone murder, but perhaps more human kindness and improving the way we interact with one another could help prevent a tragic event like this from happening again. I've got over 400 rides under my belt and experienced a lot of bullshit that tested my patience. The widening gap between the rich and poor is one of the most important problems we face today.
RECOMMENDED PASSENGER CONDUCT
We can't control other people. We can only control what we do. Remember, your life is in your driver's hands. Here are six actions I recommend every passenger follow.
1) Never make a driver wait on you. If a driver is spending 5 – 20 minutes on average to come by and pick you up, the last thing you should do is make him wait even longer. You get the ETA as soon as you make the request on the app and get real-time updates on when the driver will appear. Making your driver wait is a sign of disrespect and the #1 thing that pisses off all drivers. There is a $5 cancellation fee a driver will earn if you aren't out within 2 minutes of arrival, but the fee sometimes doesn't trigger and often does not compensate the driver for his lost time and fare.
2) Do not treat the car as your private office for conference calls. It is extremely distracting and annoying for passengers to yammer away on their mobile phones while their driver is trying to tune out and focus on the road. If you must use your mobile device, send text messages or surf the internet instead. If unwanted, sound is the most annoying thing because it can't be blocked out. To be a safer driver, drivers need to hear the road. If you must talk on your phone, politely ask the driver first if it's OK. He will appreciate your courtesy.
3) Do not eat or drink in the car. Not only will you stink up the car, you'll also leave crumbs and your stained fingers will grease up the doors, windows, seats, and door handles. If you soil the car with your food, you might piss off the driver to take his anger out on the next customer. Further, a smelly, sticky car might cause the next passenger to rate the driver poorly. So many times I've found riders leave trash on the floor well or conveniently in the pocket of my seats. Not cool.
4) Be kind and ask the driver about his day. A lot of drivers are bored or lonely. It helps when a kind passenger greets them with a smile and asks how their shift has been so far. Drivers want to be treated like a friend, instead of a servant. The more you can show your appreciation for the driver through dialogue the better. If the driver doesn't want to talk, at least you've made an effort to be nice.
5) Do not ever complain as an Uberpool passenger. One of the worst things you can do is complain about how long it takes to get somewhere as an Uberpool passenger. If you wanted faster service, then you should have ordered UberX where you're the only passenger in the car. The driver is already under added stress because he has to juggle driving with new pings on his app giving him last minute directions to pick up another passenger or two. Any car accident or ticket will wipe out a driver's profits for days.
6) Do tip. Uber doesn't provide a tipping function in the app because it believes the extra step will cause passenger friction. Whenever there is friction, usage goes down. I know this very well from all the A/B testing experiments we did at the various startups I consulted for. Every single Uber driver will appreciate a tip, even if it's just a buck. Do not be embarrassed by the amount of your tip. Your driver will be touched because all he's faced is wage pressure from corporate the day he began. It's the gesture that counts!
UBER BACKGROUND CHECKS
Uber outsources its background checks to a company called Checkr, which is nationally accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners. They go through an applicant's motor vehicle records and search for criminal records at the county, state, and federal levels.
What Uber doesn't do is take an applicant's fingerprints. This is the key background check difference between ridesharing companies and the taxi/limo industry.
The problem in Jason Dalton's case was that he didn't have a criminal history. Thus, even if he had been fingerprinted, nothing would have come up. There was supposedly a negative complaint about Jason regarding his driving quality several hours before he started killing people, but with 3 million pickups a day, the complaint wasn't prioritized given the complaint wasn't about a physical altercation.
“UBER DOES NOT GUARANTEE THE QUALITY, SUITABILITY, SAFETY OR ABILITY OF THIRD PARTY PROVIDERS. YOU AGREE THAT THE ENTIRE RISK ARISING OUT OF YOUR USE OF THE SERVICES, AND ANY SERVICE OR GOOD REQUESTED IN CONNECTION THEREWITH, REMAINS SOLELY WITH YOU, TO THE MAXIMUM EXTENT PERMITTED UNDER APPLICABLE LAW.” – Uber Terms January 2, 2016
TREAT DRIVERS WITH RESPECT AND KINDNESS
It's hard to tell what exactly set Jason Dalton off after 100 rides. But I will tell you that because of poor customer behavior, driving can very quickly become unpleasant. Uber has this asymmetric system which allows passengers to have 1 out of 5 ratings and still get rides, while if drivers fall below a 4.6 rating, they get put on probation. This dichotomy is the biggest slap in the face for drivers who always feel pressure to get 5 star ratings.
Imagine taking an exam where your wealthy classmates only had to score a 20% or better to get an A, while the much poorer you needs a 92% to get an A. To add insult to injury, the wealthy classmates are courted by the best universities while your request for equality just gets ignored. Rage on!
By cutting fares and also increasing the “safe rider fee,” Uber corporate has made driving much less profitable for drivers. For example, if the driver gets a minimum gross fare of $5 in San Francisco, the driver must pay a $1 safe rider fee (20%) plus 25% of his/her $5 fare to Uber in commission. That leaves the driver with less than $3 after fees and before paying for gas, wear and tear, and taxes.
At least corporate is sometimes offering guaranteed minimum hourly earnings during primetime hours. But this is often offset by the reality that because driving is a side hustle for many drivers, they dislike driving during rush hour and prefer or are only able to drive during off peak hours.
Uber drivers are getting squeezed on both ends. So please, next time you hail an Uber or a Lyft, go out of your way to be nice to your driver. Be at curbside waiting, ask him how his shift is going, and give him a small tip. There's nothing you can do about corporate squeezing every last penny it can from their drivers. But at least you can do your part to help a hard working person have a better day.
If you want to drive for Uber, you can sign up here. I recommend driving until you can collect the bonus and then only driving when prices are surging, or when you are going somewhere far and can pick up a ride along the way.
What's It Like Driving For Uber: Feelings Of Hope And Sadness – Realized very quickly there is a huge part of the population just struggling to get by. Good post for those thinking of giving driving a go.
Spoiled Or Clueless? Try Working A Minimum Wage Job As An Adult – For those who lack empathy towards the people who cook, clean, drive, and cater to your every need, this is a must read. This post should also help those who aren't willing to pay their dues.
Income Profiles Of Financially Free People – Profiling four people who side hustled to earn more money and create more freedom for themselves.
Why I'm No Longer Willing To Drive For Uber – Final lessons learned after seven months and 400+ rides.
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