Earlier this week, cult-film director Kevin Smith’s (Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy) teenage daughter publicly released that she nearly escaped an attempted kidnapping in Los Angeles, when two men impersonated none-other than her Uber drivers.
Shockingly, 16 year old Harley Quinn Smith, star of her father’s latest film Yoga Hosers, was almost the victim of what could have been a horrible crime, all during the light of day in an upper-class neighborhood of Los Angeles. Smith wrote on her personal Instagram that while she waited for her Uber outside of a local Starbucks, she was approached by two men in a car who claimed they were her Uber drivers. Smith states “When I asked who they were there to pick up, making sure it was the right car, they wouldn’t answer me and said to get in the car…They didn’t have the [Uber] app on their phone and were clearly just two disgusting dudes trying to kidnap a girl standing on her own. Protect yourself never ever get in a car without checking that it’s the correct car first.” To read her entire account click here.
Disturbingly, Smith’s almost assault is neither the first, nor the last in an increasing trend of crimes committed by drivers for car pickup services or impersonators. All users should familiarize themselves with the regulations their drivers must abide by and exactly what things they, as riders, can do to stay safe. Uber and Lyft have both responded to their user’s concerns by increasing funding for background checks but even that can’t stop the kind of crime that Smith experienced.
Uber insists that it’s committed to the safety of both their drivers and passengers. But while it’s easy to find many first-hand accounts of what it’s like to be a female Uber driver, and how to stay safe, it’s more difficult to find helpful hints for passengers. In addition to all rides being insured, Uber’s Code of Conduct includes a “zero-tolerance policy regarding discrimination, harassment, or abuse” as well as any aggressive behavior, but it does not reference sexual harassment. Aside from being disappointing, this case-by-case wording creates an unsafe gray area for all female passengers.
So, since there’s not much out there for women to rely on for staying safe when riding with a car pickup service, here are some tips to maintain your general safety:
- Order Your Own Uber. Much like only drinking beverages that you yourself have bought at whatever bar, club, or party you’re attending – try to order your own Uber. It’s the best way of knowing exactly what kind of car and driver you’re getting, and it’s the best way to track them as they make their way to you. Be aware of the make and model of the car you’re waiting for. Don’t be fooled by drivers that just pull up on the street.
- Communicate Your ETA. Send a text to someone as soon as you get into your Uber. Either message the people you’re on your way to meet, or, if you’re heading home send a text to your significant other or roommate. Live alone? Text your parents, your best friend, your coworker, anyone. Let people know where you are!
- Last Resort. As a total last resort try carrying pepper spray. It’s an effective self-defense weapon, and it’s legal in every state. Depending on the size and quantity of your pepper spray, it can shoot up to 18 feet away, which means you don’t have to be too close to your attacker. More often than not, just threatening to pepper spray a would-be attacker or simply brandishing it, will get the message across. Stay safe ladies!