Las Vegas Rideshare driver

LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- Rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft offer convenient rides booked from a smartphone and flexible hours for drivers. 

While the companies have certainly challenged other transportation options in the valley, casinos and hotels had to change to keep up. Police do, too.

Elizabeth, who did not want to provide her last name, is one of thousands of drivers in the Las Vegas Valley and said she offers a unique ride.

“Oh my god, they’re like, 'Is this the 'Cash Cab?''" she said.

There are lights and a camera. “Tums to candy and gum and water and snacks,” she said.

She said she offers a lot of action to make each ride memorable one.

“I always bring back some of the '90s hip-hop music … they just absolutely have a party in the backseat,” she said. “I just wanted to try something different and I ended up falling in love with it."

Elizabeth said she has been driving for both Uber and Lyft for almost two years.

“It was a great opportunity for me to have the flexible hours and be able to work when I wanted to and not miss any more games for my daughter.”

Hence -- the lights, the music. Elizabeth said the more fun for her riders means more funds for her.

However, safety is always in the back of her mind. 

"You never know who’s going to get in your car. I have a camera, yes, it is a big deterrent for most people so they don’t act stupid. Usually, but sometimes, it doesn’t stop them,” Elizabeth said.

She said she knows her passengers will be drinking. She said she likes working graveyard shifts on the weekend when its busier but it’s also when passengers can get a little out of hand.

“They’re inebriated, they’re you know, throwing up or they’re just being a little handsy or 'touchy-feely.'”

In a video from Elizabeth’s dash camera, a man reached over and started touching her. She flicked his arm off. Elizabeth said he was so drunk he couldn’t unbuckle himself and get out of the car.

"Now once you’ve left the club, we’re looking to extend that safety all the way until you get home,” said Lt. David Valenta.

He and the rest of Las Vegas Metropolitan Police have been working to prevent situations like that from happening to drivers and passengers.

Metro teamed up with Uber to start the "#DontStandBy" campaign.

“Uber was very involved -- they got with, which is kind of an umbrella for sexual assaults and domestic violence prevention awareness,” said Lt. Valenta.

In 2018, Metro reported more than 1,500 sexual assaults, though could not provide data on how many happened during rideshares.

“Rideshares, whether it's passenger on passenger, whether it's driver-passenger related, was a very tiny part of that,” he said.

Lt. Valenta said he's hoping the pilot campaign will keep it that way. The hashtag DontStandBy is only in Las Vegas and L.A.

"Las Vegas is the entertainment capital of the world. So, it’s an obvious choice for anyone to come here,” said Lt. Valenta.

And almost anyone can take a rideshare, or try.

 “The problem would only be if you’re not 18. I can’t take unaccompanied minors,” said a valley driver.

“I’m 53,” said the passenger.

“Do you have ID?”

“No, and you’re not my mom.”

That conversation was between a valley driver and a girl who might not have been over 18. It was recorded on the driver's dash cam on May 6.    

“Children who are under 18 are not allowed to use Uber or Lyft,” said Elizabeth. And yet, she said it happens a lot. Usually, someone else usually orders the ride for them. 

“I’ve had some definite creepy people,” said Elizabeth. “I’ve had people offer me money for sexual favors and I politely decline.”

“We’ve taken reports on both sides,” explained Lt. Valenta.

Elizabeth said she hasn’t reported any of her passengers to police but she has to Uber and Lyft. She just doesn’t know what happened after.

“I mean they could get a slap on the hand. We don’t know.”

Lt. Valenta said with any new platform, comes new risks, and the latest is fake rideshares.

“People pulling up asking if you need a ride saying they’re off duty Uber, off duty Lyft - do not get in that car,” he said.

“We go through a background check, a vigorous background check once a year to make sure we don’t have a record we’re not predators,” said Elizabeth.

It doesn’t mean passengers should automatically trust their driver.

“If we can get people to prevent and avoid taking their overly intoxicated ready-to-pass out friend and just throw them in the back of a car and think, all good I’m going to go back to the party. Sometimes you all got to walk away, you all got to get in the car together,” said Lt. Valenta.

Technology is constantly changing, but safety advice doesn’t.

“Safety in numbers. Arrive together, stick together, leave together,” said Lt. Valenta.

At the University of South Carolina, Samantha Josephson got into a car she thought was her Uber ride. She never made it home.

“I always cover my screen on my phone and I ask for their name. And they tell me their name and I say, 'OK, who’s your driver's name?'” said Elizabeth.

“Here’s a picture of the vehicle, here’s the license plate, here’s the driver here’s the name. Absolutely you should be having that conversation before you get in,” Lt. Valenta said.

Uber reminds passengers, too. They just started sending push notifications that remind passengers to check the license plate.

The rideshare companies are constantly changing and updating. In many cities, including Las Vegas, there’s an option to share your ride to save money.

“Pool rides are very complicated,” said Elizabeth.

UberPool opened the door to another complicated risk.

“I’ve picked up guys and they’ll start to hit on the girls that get in after them,” she explained.

Elizabeth and other valley rideshare drivers said they see a lot of men use UberPool to pick up women.

“Desperate times calls for desperate measures I guess,” said Elizabeth.

"A lot of sexual assaults are coupled with whether it's alcohol, whether it's narcotics, when you start adding some of those you put yourself at risks where you are,” said Lt. Valenta.

Copyright 2019 KVVU (KVVU Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved

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