Rideshare and delivery drivers are speaking out through advocacy groups about the dangers they encounter on the job.
Drivers are sometimes forced to deal with screaming passengers or police encounters.
Insider talked to three female Uber drivers about the most terrifying situations they've experienced at work.
Some rideshare drivers and delivery workers are speaking out about the violence and danger they face on the job through organizations like Justice for App Workers and the Independent Drivers Guild. While most deliveries and rides go smoothly, many longtime drivers have faced terrifying situations behind the wheel — from being yelled at by aggressive passengers to being roped into criminal getaways.
Three female Uber drivers shared their scariest stories with us. This is what they had to say.
Naomi Ogutu, New York, NY
In 2016, I had just gotten my TLC license to drive a taxi and started driving a Green Taxi in Brooklyn, where I used to live. I was at a train station waiting to get a ride, and this guy who was carrying what looked like a shoe box in a paper bag got in the car and asked me to take him near the Williamsburg bridge, so I started driving him.
I wanted to take a specific route, but he was insisting on taking another. The light had already turned green, so it was too late for me to take his route. Then we started to drive by all these ambulances and police cars.
There were sirens and everything. Next, I was surrounded by police and told to put the car in park, put my windows down, put my hands on the steering wheel and not make a move. I did that.
I was trying to comprehend what was going on. I looked outside, and my passenger was on the ground and the police were stepping on his head! I was trying to figure out what was going on, and why they were doing that to my passenger, and the police showed me the box he was carrying contained a pistol. The next day, they called me, asked me some questions, and I never heard from them again.
I was so scared. If anything had gone wrong, maybe he would have shot me. That situation made me decide to start driving for the app companies.
Then, in 2018, I picked up a man and a woman in Manhattan and had a scary experience. We were chatting, and the man said: "You have an accent. Where are you from?" I told him I was from Kenya in East Africa, and he asked: "Do you have a green card? Do you have citizenship?" I told him I didn't think I should discuss my immigration status with him.
He said: "No! I want to know if you're here legally because New York is a shitty state, New York City is a sanctuary city and they're giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, and these are the people who are killing people here." It was very tense. I thought he might attack me. I didn't know what to do.
He then kept asking me and said: "Why is it so hard for you to tell me if you have papers or not?" I was so scared, because I didn't know what he would do to me.
Teddi Burgess, Chicago, IL
During the summer of 2019, I picked up two customers in downtown Chicago — in the River North area, the touristy part of town, in a really nice neighborhood. I had one of the passengers jump in the front seat, which really surprised me, and the other person got in the back seat.
The person in the front seat got on the phone and started becoming extremely agitated, screaming and yelling into the phone. I wasn't going to say anything, until her body language started to change and become more aggressive while she was right next to me. I said to the gentleman in the back seat: "Hey, I'm really sorry, but is there anything you could say or maybe do to help me calm her down?"
That's when he flipped out. He screamed at me, saying: "Shut up. Don't talk, and just drive." That's when I said: "I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to end this trip."
He threatened me, and my survival instincts kicked in. At the next exit, I pulled over. The guy was yelling at me, and I thought he was for sure going to grab me and keep me in that car, but I was lucky enough to grab my phone, jump out and walk across the street. I called 911 and told them what was going on. Meanwhile, the people were still in my car.
The police told me to stay where I was — which I didn't really want to do, but I also didn't want to leave my car. Eventually, the two people did get out of my car and started walking away. They saw I was on the phone, so I'm sure they knew I was on the phone with the police.
Michele Dottin, New York, NY
I had what we call a long trip, from New York City to the Hamptons. It was late — probably about 11:30 at night — so when I got to the Hamptons, it was close to a quarter to 1 in the morning.
When I dropped off my passenger, I had no issues. But after that ride, I got a ping.
The ping took me to a 711 where there were two gentlemen. It was a black car request, so usually with those, I don't really worry or think anything of it.
It was winter, and we'd had an ice storm and a couple days of snow before. There was still a lot of ice on the road. I picked up the passengers, they got in the car, and they said: "Ms. Smith, can you take off quickly? This driver is following us."
It turned out that they didn't want to pay some other cab service they had used, but at the time, I didn't know all of this.
Here I am, with these two young men in the back of my car, trying to lose this other driver who is chasing us while the roads are icy. He followed us for a while.
So finally I decided to speed up really fast, see if I can find an outpost to drive in and turn off my lights. Not too long after, I saw him speed past looking for me. I was so shaken up.
Once I took them to their location, I didn't say anything to the app company. It is what it is. I rated them as a three and listed the location as "other," because they weren't rude to me but my life was in danger because of the process I had to go through to get out of that ride.
It's the job that we chose, and sometimes our safety is at risk.
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