A Girl’s Guide to Uber

While the subtle drop in temperature is a sure sign that fall has finally begun, this also signals that Happy Valley’s infamous cold weather is slowly approaching. The resurgence of this crippling cold weather can mean many things: freezing walks to class, dusting off your parka that you stored away last April, and most importantly a spike in your recent Uber use.

Uber’s peer-to-peer ridesharing service has taken the world by storm and plays an integral role on college campuses and metropolises around the country. Uber has gained prominence in many people’s minds, even surpassing the use of public transportation, biking and even walking.  It’s hard to remember the days when one would have to pull up Mapquest or call a friend for a ride now that we have such a convenient service right at our fingertips!

Aside from the obvious fact that Uber is convenient, the most common and recurring argument is whether or not it’s safe. For those who have never taken an Uber before, let’s go through the general process an Uber rider takes part in while catching a ride in State College.

Once pulling up the Uber app, you enter your destination and choose a ride option, which includes the price up front. You have a choice of an UberX, for one to four riders, or an UberXL, for five or more riders. Once placing a “pin” on a map indicating where you and your party will be waiting for your ride, you’ll see your driver’s picture and vehicle details, and you can track their arrival on the map. This is where the gray area of safeness arises.

Once the driver is en route, it is up to the person who called the Uber to find the car and driver matching the description they were given. Of course, this doesn’t sound too difficult to the average person, but what if the person who requested a ride is inebriated? What if they were not only inebriated, but alone? This scary circumstance is actually a common occurrence in downtown State College and in most college towns as well.

According the Centre Daily TimesState College police are investigating two sexual assaults that occurred around the downtown area this past weekend. The suspect, police say, was posing as an Uber driver around 1:30 a.m. on Sunday on the 200 block of South Allen Street. In each of these incidents, a male suspect transported the victims to the Highlands neighborhood in State College, where they were assaulted. Both victims described the suspect as white or Hispanic with a large build.

Although Uber claims it is safe, and even gives guidelines on its website as to how to ride safely,  for women there is always a risk involved with getting into a stranger’s car. Here are some important guidelines as to how to stay safe while using not only Uber, but any ridesharing service!

1. Confirm you’re with the right driver by telling the driver your name and then asking for their name, and making sure it matches up with the information you were given. Uber rides can only be requested through the app, so never get in a car with a driver who claims to be with Uber and offers a ride that you did not order.

2. Ride with a friend, and if you can’t, use Uber’s “share status” feature to share your driver’s name, photo, license plate and location with a friend or family member. They can track your trip and see your ETA without even downloading the Uber app.

3. Protect your personal information because Uber already supplies the driver with any information regarding your ride that they will need. There is no need for you to disclose your phone number or any other contact information.

4. Sit right behind the driver because it’s always easier to fight off an attacker if you are in a blind spot.

5. Always follow your intuition, and use your best judgement when riding with Uber. And if you ever feel you’re in an emergency situation, call 911 immediately.


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