Reports of Uber assault question safety of service

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by Chase Piper

An SMU student called an Uber after a fun Thursday night out with friends.

“I called the Uber unaware of how the night would turn,” the SMU student who has chosen to remain anonymous said.

The student got into the car alone and headed home for the night.

“At first he seemed kind. I never imagined that I would be the victim of sexual assault,” the student said.

Like that student, other young men and women in the Dallas community get into Ubers without knowing that their lives could change forever. With countless stories of sexual assault and abuse in the Dallas community as well as other states, there are still ways to stay safe when Ubering.

Former SMU police officer Nick Novello is now a strong advocate for the safety of civilians. Novello speaks against the lack of policeman in Dallas and explains that given the circumstances with an Uber, the safety lies most prominently in the hands of the passenger.

“The burden lies on a young lady or a guy who’s going to use Uber to be extremely wise in how they use Uber,” Novello said.

Novello explained that the there is no telling which Uber driver can be unsafe.

“There are so many drivers, you wonder if so many guys who’ve slipped through the cracks have not been bedded,” Novello said.

Novello believes that people using the application to get home can try to avoid those instances even when placed in a bad situation.

As a strong advocate for the safety of those involved heavily in the Dallas community, Novello advises people to ride with a group.

“How you really circumvent that is you simply don’t go or do anything by your lonesome with Uber or any other cab company,” Novello said.

Despite horror stories, not every Uber driver is dangerous. Mark Pozuelos, an Uber driver of two years, explains the process of becoming an Uber driver and gives tips on staying safe.

“All applicants must go through a background check,” Pozuelos said. “They must pass and they have to have a clean driving record, or they will not be hired.”

Although Pozuelos mentions that there is regulation as to who is chosen to be an Uber driver, the website fails to acknowledge the strict process applicants go through to become drivers.

According to Julie Bawden Davis, an advocate for saving money, speculations exist as to how intense the application process is for the applicants. She explains that Uber drivers may not have the driving or criminal backgrounds needed for a safe Uber driver.

Uber’s website also gives helpful tips on staying safe, and Pozuelos made great points about the safety of Uber riders.

“Always sit in the back seat. The app tells you where you’re going so it is important to share your ride with a friend or relative when riding alone,” Pozuelos said.

“If you know that you will be consuming alcohol, always have a friend ride with you,” Pozuelos said. “The buddy system is the most important way of staying safe.”

Uber is a taxi cab application intended for those needing a safe ride. Following precautions can help ensure the passenger safety. Uber’s website says any passenger should share their ride and follow their location on the application. Uber also encourages passengers to give feedback about their ride to help improve their customer experience.

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