Ride-hailing services offer the comfort of being transported from point A to B in a driver-driven, AC car at the rate of a rickshaw. With customers increasing by the day, their business is booming. However, there is a dark side to this awesome service – HARASSMENT.
According to a survey, some 30% of women have reportedly felt unsafe using these services, while 15% faced harassment. While not an ideal solution, you have the option of asking for a female driver. You may also opt for a women-only taxi service. But what if you can’t?
There are two sets of tips that you can follow to stay safe.
Pre-checklist (before you get in the car)
- Plan ahead – A ride-hailing service is just that; its not your car. You will be sitting in close proximity to a stranger. So, plan your trip accordingly. If you need to go through a deserted piece of land to get to your destination, try getting there in daylight. If you can’t, then make sure you take a family member or friend along with you. The idea here is not to be alone in the car, with a stranger, on a long-deserted road in the dark.
- Get in the right ride – Once you book a ride, your ride’s information pops up on your phone before the car is there to pick you up. Before getting in the car, just make sure that the details on your phone and the car in front of you are the same. You need to particularly look for the car’s make and model and its number plate.
- Ride in the backseat – Maintaining physical distance from the driver matters and it matters even more if you find yourself in a bad situation.
- Share status – Your ride-hailing app would have this feature, so use it. Before getting in the car, let at least one of your family members or friends know about the details of your ride – like the number on its plate, driver’s name and photo, etc. This is like your backup, insurance plan.
- Check for jammed or child lock – Before you get in the car, make sure to check whether your side of the door opens as it should. Some doors are hard to open in the first try. Also, check for child lock. If it’s on, you won’t be able to get out of the car immediately, as you will first have to roll down the window and open the door from outside by extending your hand. In a bad situation, time is of the essence.
- Useful accessories – Carry a repellant with you like pepper spray. Scissors may also be used as a weapon.
- Be respectful – Give the driver respect that he deserves but don’t be unnecessarily chatty. Do not share your number with the driver or other personal details. Politely ask the driver to remove sun visors (if any) from the windows.
- Above all – Follow your intuition – Listen to your “inner voice.” If it’s dark, you are alone, your destination requires going through a dark, dingy road, and your driver looks suspicious, don’t get in the car.
What happens if you have followed all of the above and still find yourself in a situation which is intimidating to outright harassing.
Post checklist (after you’ve gotten in the car)
Here’s how you can stay safe if all hell breaks loose.
- Cancel the ride – Tell your driver to pull over and let you off. If you aren’t comfortable sitting in the car, don’t think twice, just cancel your ride, don’t worry about the cost of cancelling your ride.
- Jump out of the car – While no one would recommend taking this extreme step since it can cause serious bodily injuries (PakWheels doesn’t endorse it), it is perhaps the best and only option you have when the driver tries to assault you. It is also a practical step especially when the car isn’t moving. It sounds drastic, but in Karachi, a female did exactly that on Shara-i-Faisal. The driver was arrested by the police.
- Go mad – Start yelling at the top of your lungs to gain attention. If you can gain the attention of the general public or from the neighbourhood where you are stranded in, the driver is likely to run away.
- Pull the hand break – If the driver refuses to pull over and let you go, pull the car’s hand brake.
- Go to the nearest police station – Our police may not be the most efficient, but it’s our main investigating and law enforcing authority. You have no choice. So, get to the nearest police station and narrate the whole story. The story that you’ll be able to narrate right after the incident would be most accurate as the chain of events will be fresh in your mind. If you take your time in reporting the incident, your memory may play tricks on you; you may forget important details, making your complaint less effective in some incidents to outright unbelievable in other cases.
- Report the driver – There is a reason why this is being listed as your last option. You should report the errant driver but only when you are away from him at a safe place. Your priority should be to get to a safe place. However, it is extremely important that you report the driver to concerned authorities including police right after the incident. Even a short delay in reporting the incident can weaken your case.
Never forget, irrespective of your gender, outfit, time and location, it is your right to commute safely. Let no one make it otherwise.