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How to say safe when riding Uber or Lyft

Donald Bradley, The Kansas City Star on

Published in Science & Technology News

You settle into the backseat of the Uber car and close your eyes because happy hour turned into four.

Then you remember the basic safety rules of ride-sharing -- the rules you should have thought of two minutes earlier.

So you check your phone for the picture Uber sent you of the driver. Friendly looking woman, sort of resembles your aunt.

Then you look into the rear-view mirror and you see a guy who looks like Jack Nicholson in the final scenes of "The Shining."

Phony driver incidents have sprung up all over the country. Often it's just a money thing. Sometimes it's more.

Last month, an Overland Park man was accused of posing as an Uber driver, picking up intoxicated women in Westport and the Power & Light District and raping them. Last year, police say, a man and woman at Power & Light hopped into what they thought was an Uber car. When the man had to step out to relieve himself, the driver, another fake, sped off and raped the woman in Overland Park. In May, a Rhode Island man, posing as an Uber driver, was charged with kidnapping and sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl.

 

And sometimes such crimes are committed by real ride-share drivers.

On Tuesday, Uber weathered more bad news with the revelation of a year-old hacking attack that stole personal information about 57 million customers and drivers. There's no evidence that the data was misused, but the news can't help the company's reputation.

But even with such incidents, ride-sharing continues to become an even bigger part of American life. And the big services, Uber and Lyft, are expected to do even bigger business as cold weather and the holidays arrive. Ride-sharing is convenient, reduces traffic, creates jobs and cuts down on the bar crowd getting behind the wheel.

"Uber will save your life," said Chelsea O'Connor, 21, who works at HopCat, a Westport brew pub. "Not just your life, but others' lives too."

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