The holiday seasons bring with them a lot of traveling. They also bring a lot of holiday revelers and drinkers enjoying the free time to get totally inebriated and in many cases needing assistance to get home. Since intoxicated riders react differently, Uber and Lyft drivers are faced with a higher percentage of potentially dangerous rides. This article will try to help drivers understand the complexities of dealing with inebriated or otherwise dangerous passengers during the holiday season.
This article is arranged as a "military" or security assessment plan, since driving dangerous passengers is literally a military operation:
Stage I: Risk Assessment
The first stage of planning a holiday night ride shift is known your rider. Know where they drink and party, what kind of drinkers they are and where they will be living. This means you have to know your territory well too. Before you start driving your shift, pick the area you want to work with and prepare yourself according to the scenario you expected during a regular week but multiplied a hundred times.
Stage II: Know your Rider
When picking up a passenger, as you approach them with your car or as you see them approaching you, try to ascertain how inebriated they are. Also, check their body language, are they in a rush, agitated? Check out their attire, what are they wearing, can you see a concealed weapon in their belt, do they seem as if they are being chased? Take in all the information before you open the door to let them in. Don't be frightened and don't make a rash decision, sometimes you can be scared of any detail that is out of proportion to the situation, such as the passenger is an off-duty cop.
Stage III: In your Car
Any number of things can happen in your car during a ride, and they are a result of how you handle the situation and not how the rider decides. The final outcome is whether you take control of the situation or you let the rider control or lead you to make wrong decisions. So, the first thing you must remember is to keep cool and calm at all time. Turn on the dash cam recorder and make sure you tell the rider that the dashcam is on and recording, this sometimes calms them down from any rash actions they might consider during the ride. Listen to your passenger when he/she makes any requests, try to ascertain what their state of mind is.
III.1: The Drunk passenger
These riders are unpredictable and can either be docile or volatile and can swing from one state of mind to another. If your passenger is having trouble being coherent, ask for their driver's license or some kind of printed address to make it easier for you. If the rider is rude, swearing and shouting try not to take too much at heart and continue to request their address. At the end of the day, anyone who drinks too much is either an idiot that got too much alcohol in a party or someone wallowing in their own life's misery. Don't' be judgmental; you do not know why they are drunk. If they are not alone, it might be easier, unless their companions are as drunk as them. Take into account that you must have some form of upholstery protection and sick bags available, and be prepared for anything.
III.2: Unconscious Riders
If a passenger loses consciousness in your car, even if you have their address, do not continue to drive them to their destination. Park your car on the side, do not touch the passenger and make sure that your dash cam is recording everything with audio. First, talk to them, then shout wake up, then if open windows to let the cold air in and finally turn up the volume of music. If none of these work, close the windows, turn don the music and state to the camera you have an unconscious passenger, and you are calling 911. Wait until the help arrives and explain what the situation is.
Learn More: Uber Driver Support
III.3: Aggressive Riders
After you start to ride off, if the passenger becomes verbally abusive, you should try to remain calm, to answer unless sure of a calming answer. Agree with their expressions, even if they call you worse than an idiot, you can state to the dashcam that you agree with them. Do not add anything, do not speak or reply more than agreeing. You only want to get them home as soon as possible. If, however, they get physical, you find the lightest place to stop, a gas station is best, and you demand they get out of the car, you also call 911 immediately. If you are in an area that is not near anywhere populated, you dial 911 while driving and try to find a light or populated place to park. You get out of the car first and maintain the 911 call. Remember, you do not want to fight them, and you do not want to get into a defensive stance if attacked. Regarding self-defense; for some reason, Uber doesn't allow drivers to protect themselves. I suggest that if you have to choose between being deactivated from driving for Uber or being driven in an ambulance or a hearse, you pick the former and just protect yourself as best as possible. Running is the first option, but if you cannot run, or are not in a situation to run, protect yourself properly.
III.4: Suspicious Activity
On rare occasions, you might pick up someone involved in criminal activities, such as drug dealing, drug buying, kidnapping, running from a crime scene, etc. If such a passenger enters your car before you can stop them, you have to extricate yourself in a very delicate way. Remember, criminals can be armed, most are, and you are in danger. If you comply with their actions you become a party involved, and only if you feel your life is in danger do you comply. Remember your dash cam, well this is now a very important piece of evidence. If the rider is a drug dealer and is trying to implicate you in his dealings, then just make sure you get as much information as possible and after the ride is over contact 911. Do not be a hero; law enforcement prefers you stay alive to testify then to be wounded.
As mentioned above, a dash cam is imperative in these situations, in fact, any standard Uber driver knowns to install a dash cam before they even start working full time. It is the most important gadget needed in your car, since it protects you from false claims, as well as provides evidence in any situation. You are bound by law to state that your dash cam uses audio, but not bound by law to state if it is the only video. During the night shifts, it is wise to use audio as well since not many passengers will be involved in the business.
Mace or other self-defense gadgets are advisable, but only to be used as a last resort and only if your life is in danger. This being said since Uber deactivates drivers even if the driver had good cause for the use of the weapon.
Final word, most drivers drive in relatively easy areas. However there are some more dangerous parts in the US that do require extra attention. Be safe, drive safe and enjoy the holidays.