Know your rights as a rideshare passenger

Allowing a total stranger to take you from place to place is something millions of Americans do each day. Most feel there are laws and regulations in place to protect them, and indeed there are some laws that protect them in some respects, but there exist other areas where they aren’t actually protected by law.

Some of the rights bestowed upon rideshare passengers, however, come not from the law, but from the rideshare companies themselves, such as Uber and Lyft.

Rights related to the coronavirus

Recently, both major rideshare companies, Uber and Lyft, have made several changes in their rules to protect not only passengers but drivers as well, when it comes to the coronavirus.

Both companies now mandate that masks be worn by both drivers and riders. However, the responsibility for enforcing this rule lies with the individual drivers and passengers when they first meet.

Uber drivers are asked several times a day to send a photo to Uber showing that they are wearing a mask. If a mask can’t be detected in the photo, they are not allowed to sign into the app to receive trip requests. However, we hear from drivers all the time who say they refuse to wear a mask. When the Uber app asks them to take a selfie in a mask, they tell us they put the mask on, take the selfie and then promptly take the mask off.

There are other drivers we hear from who do wear masks and believe it’s the right thing to do. They complain about riders who refuse to wear masks.

Riders and drivers are required to wear masks

So, what you need to know as a rider is that first, you have the right to expect and require your driver to wear a mask. If he or she shows up without one, you have the right (given to you by Uber and Lyft — not necessarily by law) to ask them to put the mask on. They also have the right to ask you to put a mask on if for some reason you’re not wearing one.

This can get a little tricky, however, because riders are allowed to rate drivers and drivers are forced to rate riders at the end of each trip — before they can accept any new trip requests. If your driver believes in wearing masks and you show up without one, even if you agree to put one on after he requests it, it may annoy him so much that you showed up without one that he’ll give you a lower rating when the trip is over. And low passenger ratings can result in longer wait times to get connected to a driver who accepts your trip request and longer pick-up times.

Typically, if you believe in wearing masks in public and a driver shows up without one, if you have time and if you’re in an area where there are plenty of other drivers, the best thing to do is simply cancel the trip and call for another driver.

You may also find yourself in a situation where the driver refuses to put on a mask even after you ask him to. In that case, I believe you should definitely cancel the ride and find another driver, because even if he does ultimately don the mask, it is highly likely he will give you a bad rating because he will be so annoyed that you forced the issue. In this situation, you should definitely cancel the trip and find another driver. Drivers who refuse to wear masks are violating the rules set out by the rideshare companies they drive for.

Uber and Lyft are waiving all cancellation fees for trips that are cancelled for this reason. So you will not be charged. After you tap cancel, the app will give ask you why you cancelled and give you a list of reasons. A driver not wearing a mask is one of the reasons, and if you select that one, you won’t be charged a cancellation fee.

Also, as a passenger, you should understand that drivers have a right to insist that you wear a mask as well. If they do and you don’t want to wear a mask, the best thing is to find another driver. Whatever you do, however, don’t give them a low rating because of this — they are required by the companies they work for to ask all riders to wear masks.

Some drivers don’t care as much as others and may not ask you to put a mask on. But other drivers do care and will insist on it. They have the right to do that under Uber and Lyft’s new coronavirus regulations.

You have a right to a sanitized vehicle

As a rideshare customer during the year of COVID-19, you also have the right to a sanitized passenger area, namely the back seat. However, this right comes with a little twist.

Uber is no longer asking drivers to sanitize the backseat, but rather, they are now asking riders to do it. Yes, it is now up to you and your fellow riders to keep the back seat sanitized.

However, before you go ballistic reading this, there is an upside. First, Uber has partnered with Clorox, which will be distributing hundreds of thousands of canisters of the company’s cleaning wipes to drivers. When you hail an Uber, you’ll get a message notifying you that the driver has wipes on hand and it will recommend that you clean the seats, door handles, etc. before the trip begins as well as when it ends. So, just before you get out, they’re asking you to clean anything you touched during the trip.

Yes, this is annoying, I know. But after thinking about it, it makes sense. It is the only way that you, the passenger, can know for sure that the car you’re riding in has been sanitized. If Uber required the drivers do this, riders would have no way of knowing if they actually had.

When it comes to matters of life and death, it’s always safer for a person to take responsibility for their own protection. It’s like parachuting. When you learn to parachute, you’re taught that ultimately you will pack your own chute. Only by packing it yourself can you be absolutely certain that it was done correctly. No one is going to care as much about protecting your life as you. So, similar to parachuting, sanitizing the area in the car where you will sit is the best way to ensure that it has actually been sanitized.

You have the right to a safe trip

Uber and Lyft riders can rightfully expect a safe trip conducted by a safe driver. If there are any safety problems at all during your trip, up to and including an accident, you can, and should, report those to the rideshare company. If you are involved in an accident where you are injured, you also have the right to be covered by the driver’s and Uber or Lyft’s insurance policies.

All drivers are required to have the proper insurance, and Uber and Lyft have policies as well, that will cover you while you’re on a ride with one of their drivers.

You have the right not to be discriminated against

Uber and Lyft’s company policies prohibit any form of discrimination, as do the laws of the United States, the respective states and cities and localities as well. Drivers are not allowed to discriminate against riders for any reason. If you suffer from discrimination, for instance if a driver refused to pick you up on account or your race or gender or any other reason like that, you should report it to Uber or Lyft at once.

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