Safety is an important issue for women. Especially in South Africa where violence against women and children is on the rise. 

We’ve heard many stories of women being attacked on their commute home whether it be when using a minibus taxi service or in an Uber or Taxify car.

Many of these crimes are often perpetrated by men, so it makes sense that many female riders feel more comfortable with a female driver. 

In the US, CNN published a new investigation revealing that 103 Uber drivers have been accused of sexual assault or abuse over the past four years. This Refinery29 article mentions how Twitter users were asking Uber for a button that would allow them to request a female driver if possible.


READ MORE: Is Uber dangerous to women? Here are 9 safety tips to consider

I asked Uber if they would consider adding a female driver request option and this is what they had to say: “While we are always looking at new features or products, this is not something we are looking into at this time but we are deeply committed to the safety of both riders and driver-partners which is why we have made a number of safety features available to both driver-partners and riders,” says Samantha Allenberg, Head of Communications Uber SA.

Taxify country manager Gareth Taylor says of their e-hailing service: “We find that people in general are excited about being matched to female driver-partners, especially given its relative novelty. Creating a system where female riders can specifically request female drivers could potentially present a new and exciting segment opportunity. Overall however, we’ve found that riders are most interested in the waiting time.”

So it doesn’t look like we’re getting an option for female drivers any time soon. 

Earlier this year Uber revealed details about its South African stats after contributing to the International Finance Corporation’s report titled Driving Toward Equality: Women, Ride Hailing and the Sharing Economy.

Did you ever wonder why you so seldom or never get a female driver? That’s because only 3.8% of uber drivers in South Africa are female. Why? They’re scared. “51% of women drivers say security concerns limit the number of hours they spend on the road,” reads the IFC’s report. This is quite high compared to the 26% average across all six markets studied including Mexico, the UK and Egypt.

READ MORE: 8 things you need to know if you want to drive for Uber

Taxify says it has around 200 female drivers in Joburg alone which is quite small when you consider that there were over 10 000 registered drivers in their first year (2016 – 2017) alone. 

So when even the drivers are scared, what about the riders? W24 ran a poll asking our readers if they would wait longer if they could get a female driver and 60% said yes that it would make them feel safer.

But what safety methods are these e-hailing companies employing to ensure the safety of their drivers and riders? 

Here’s what they told us:

Uber

"Everyone has the right to be safe, whether they’re on a train, in a cab, walking on a sidewalk or in an Uber. And while no means of transportation can be 100% incident or accident-free, technology can improve safety by creating accountability and transparency where previously there was none. We are deeply committed to the safety of both riders and driver-partners which is why we have made safety features available to both driver-partners and riders":

Available to Driver-partners

  • 24/7 local emergency line - Driver-partners have access to a 24/7 local emergency line to use in the event they feel unsafe
  • Private security - They have hired additional private security response teams in areas such as key Gautrain stations
  • Multiple security response services for drivers
  • They have partnered with multiple security response services that are able to dispatch security and medical services in emergency situations in a reduced time

READ MORE: Seven reasons why you need a reliable transport service when traveling abroad

  • Cash Indicator, which allows driver-partners to choose whether they’d like to accept a cash trip request or not, and should a driver decline a cash trip it will not impact their standing with Uber
  • Uber also offers information sessions and workshops to driver-partners, for example we have held driver safety sessions where Uber partnered with the National Hijack Prevention Academy and local SAPS teams in order to equip driver-partners with tailormade safety tips. These sessions addressed both personal and road safety challenges they may face 

Available for riders and drivers

  • Their Incident Response Team (IRT) is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to respond immediately to any reported incidents or accidents globally
  • They also have a team of former law enforcement professionals who are working closely with the police to support any investigation
  • Uber ensures things like GPS tracking of every trip, giving people the ability to able to share their trip information and ETA in real-time with loved
  • Share My Trip for riders and drivers, a safety feature which allows riders and drivers to share their whereabouts and trip status with friends and family

Available for riders

  • Driver info - Once a driver accepts a request, the riders will see their driver’s name and photo, vehicle type and license plate number. Riders are also able to see the vehicle colour on the app so they can recognise their Uber rides even before they’re picked up
  • Rider Call-Back Line - The call-back line, which has been in its test phase since December 2017, provide riders with 24/7 access to speak to Uber’s Global Incident Response Team (IRT). This is not an emergency number and they advise riders to call 10111 first
  • Insurance - Uber also offers rider insurance which is provided by Chubb, a global insurance leader, through their South African subsidiary, Chubb Insurance South Africa Limited.
  • In-app support - Uber recently launched an in-app support system to help riders get a prompt response for their queries in the shortest time possible.
  • The in-app “Help” service can be accessed within the Uber app by tapping the menu icon (three bars) in the top left hand corner. Riders can then navigate and tap on the “help” icon, scroll down and report the issue at hand.

READ MORE: 13 ways you can stay safe while on the road

Taxify

"Having a safe reliable platform is our top priority. On the 18 April we held a Driver Safety Summit for 180 of our top driver-community leaders. These leaders were selected through a driver voting poll and invited to attend the day. We separated women drivers into their own category to ensure a well-balanced pool of male and female attendees.

The event introduced drivers to our new partnership with Namola to launch a safety button in the driver app. Namola, is a mobile app that helps users receive emergency assistance at the push of a button when they need it most.

A number of training stations were also set up at the event, which dealt with topics such as anti-hijacking, self-defence and vehicle maintenance safety. Issues of safety, crime hot spots and mitigating risk with cash-paying clients formed part of the day’s agenda.

Taxify condemns any violence on the platform and anyone who doesn't adhere to the code of conduct, be it driver or rider, is removed from the platform. We take cases of violence against riders very seriously and our dedicated high priority team investigates each and every case reported in order to assists law enforcement. 

Our safety features for riders include Shared ETA, driver ratings, as well as GPS-tracking of rides through our application. Drivers go through a strict vetting process with full background checks and training to operate on the Taxify platform. If any case of misconduct is reported our High Priority team can remove a driver from the platform and assist the rider to open a case with the police. Upon which we will hand over all relevant information to assist in the investigation."

Have you ever had an incident in an Uber or Taxify? How did you resolve it? Tell us about your safety issues here.  

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