By Tori Zackery
Entirely East Lansing
Earlier in the spring semester, the Michigan State University Police Department issued emergency alerts warning of multiple sexual assaults involving ride-share drivers in East Lansing. The alerts, among other recent headlines regarding ride-sharing services, caused residents to question their safety when using the popular companies, like Uber and Lyft.
“I personally do not use ride sharing services alone, before the recent events and especially after,” said Michigan State student Adonne Washington. “I tend to only use them with groups of three or more and when the place is out of walking distance.”
Washington is originally from Kalamazoo, Michigan, where Uber driver Jason Dalton is accused of murdering six people and injuring two others in between his scheduled Uber rides. While he harmed none of his own passengers, East Lansing Police Lt. Wriggelsworth said Dalton is an example of the major risks people take when using ride-sharing services.
“You’re hopping in the back of their car with no real oversight,” said Lt. Wriggelsworth. “They don’t talk to a dispatcher, they don’t have people checking in with the cabs, they don’t leave from a place of employment and then go back to a place of employment when they’re done.”
According to Lt. Wriggelsworth, traditional taxi cabs provide more protection because of their strict regulations. Potential drivers must submit applications to the Greater Lansing Taxi Authority, also known as GLTA, and receive background checks from the local police department and the company they wish to work for. The police department is then able to access their information and determine if they are able to drive. For ride-sharing companies, protocol is less clear in East Lansing.
“They are only required to register with us at this time,” wrote East Lansing City Clerk Marie Wicks in an email. “At this time, the issue of regulating ride-shares or Transportation Network Companies (TNC’s) is currently in the hands of the state legislature.”
Even without regulation, many young adults in the area value the convenience ride-sharing services provide. Michigan State sophomore Ondrae Lawson said the services give her a stable plan when going out to party.
“It’s just good to know you have a definite ride,” said Lawson. “Like if all else fails, you know you’ll be able to get home one way or another.”
Services like Uber have several safety features that users can easily acces. After ordering a ride on Uber’s mobile app, users are sent a photo of their driver and the car they will be picked up in. Rides are also tracked so that the car’s location is always on record. Lt. Wriggelsworth said that these features are why young adults are beginning to prefer ride-sharing over taxi cabs or public transit.
“With uber, you can kind of time [your ride], you can kind of have that control. I think there’s something to say for app, web-based service with college kids connected to their cell phones,” said Lt. Wriggelsworth. “They’re going to that because that’s what they know.”