It was exactly one year ago that Gladys Arce’s life changed dramatically: Gladys was sexually assaulted on Oct. 28, 2018 when she called Lyft after attending a Halloween party.
Although Gladys was intoxicated, she knew the ride-hailing driver had turned off his app, so that it showed she had been dropped off. He also engaged his vehicle’s childproof locks.
Gladys was trapped. The driver was drinking and doing drugs, and eventually took her to a beach where he brutally assaulted her.
She was finally dropped off at her mother’s house five hours after she called Lyft.
“I was scared out of my mind because he kept telling me horrible stories about things he’d done to other people,” Gladys said.
Gladys is a plaintiff in a mass action lawsuit that was filed Sept. 4 against Lyft by the San Diego-based law firm Estey & Bomberger.
“Gladys’ ordeal is a perfect example of why the ride-hailing companies need to improve passenger safety,” attorney Mike Bomberger said. “While sexual abuse isn’t 100 percent preventable, there are steps women can take to better protect themselves.”
- Practice using your phone’s voice recording app (standard on most phones) or download one prior to your ride, so you can record your ride. “We’ve asked Lyft and Uber to digitally record all rides but they refuse, so it’s apparent that women have to take matters into their own hands,” Bomberger said. “I’m convinced that drivers won’t rape or assault passengers if they know they’re being recorded.”
- Familiarize yourself with the Uber and Lyft in-app “panic buttons” that connect you to 911 dispatchers. Don’t hesitate to call 911 if you feel threatened.
- Let someone know you’ll be getting into a ride-hailing vehicle before requesting a ride. Give them your destination and estimated arrival time.
- Take a screen shot of your confirmed ride after you’re paired with a driver and be sure to share your status/route with a trusted friend or relative so they can monitor your ride. Calling them during your ride to re-confirm your whereabouts is also a good idea, Bomberger said, because this tells the driver that people are watching.
- If the driver doesn’t say your name when you approach their vehicle, ask them for it. Don’t get in if the driver doesn’t know your name. Also, make sure their name, appearance, vehicle model and license plate number match the name, photo and vehicle information sent to your phone.
- Try not to ride alone and do try to sit in the back seat. “If you sit in the front seat you can bypass childproof locks if they’re engaged by the driver but sitting in the front seat makes you more vulnerable to groping,” Bomberger said. “If you can’t unlock your door, or the driver says he or she can’t disable the locks, call Lyft or Uber immediately and demand they be unlocked.” Victim Laci H., who was sexually assaulted by a Fort Worth Uber driver last February said, “The driver told me I had to sit in the front seat for ‘safety’ reasons. But shortly after I got in, he started groping my hands, legs and breasts, and tried to kiss me.”
- Be polite but do not engage the driver in conversation.
Estey & Bomberger represents more than 100 women who have been raped or sexually assaulted by ride-hailing drivers. For more information, please feel free to contact our office.