Say you’re a new rideshare driver still getting the hang of things. It’s prime time Friday, and you just picked up a passenger after a night on the town. Things are going well. Then you notice the passenger is slurring their words before – uh oh – they puke all over your back seat.
If you want to keep driving, you now have to clean up — but not before taking multiple pictures of the damage and not too long after the passenger leaves. That costs money and supplies.
And the time it takes you to scrub your back seat is equivalent to missed earnings because you would have otherwise been taking fares.
For drivers, situations like this, or worse, are worth being prepared for.
In Uber and Lyft advice groups, drivers caution not to expect that the companies will handle things for you. When it comes to damage or cleaning claims, drivers report passengers tend to get the benefit of the doubt unless the driver has hard proof.
Compiling that proof, taking photos, submitting a claim – that all takes additional time, time you could have spent making money. But there is a way to make that process simpler.
Uber and Lyft Drivers Recommend Dash Cams ‘Just In Case’
The most dangerous part of driving for a rideshare company is the actual driving. It’s one of the most dangerous activities we Americans do on any given day.
While Uber and Lyft offer complimentary insurance to drivers, the policies are nuanced. Uber insurance coverage varies depending on whether you are en route to a passenger, have a passenger in your car, or are merely online waiting for a passenger.
Lyft’s insurance policy works similarly. The biggest difference between the two is the deductibles: $1,000 for Uber and $2,500 for Lyft.
Several rideshare drivers told Codetic that dash cams are an affordable way to bolster your insurance claims, should something go wrong.
Plus, cameras may curb rowdy behavior from the get go if passengers are aware they’re being recorded.
“I got a dash cam after my first nightmare ride,” said Susan Beals, a rideshare driver in Eugene, Oregon.
As a woman who drives “80% at night,” Beals said she’s no stranger to uncomfortable situations like drunk passengers and or unwanted flirting. But during her “nightmare ride,” a passenger moved to sit directly behind her so that she couldn’t see him. He then drilled her about her driving schedule for the night. While he wasn’t aggressive, she said the passenger “made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.”
That interaction drove her to buy a dash cam.
Beals’ fears aren’t unwarranted. According to Uber’s “US Safety Report” released in December 2019, 22 drivers died in car accidents, and seven died from physical assaults in 2017 and 2018. What’s more, the company said drivers reported nearly 2,700 cases of sexual harassment from passengers over the same period of time.
Since installing a $100 dash cam, Beals noticed her passengers – “even intoxicated and high folks” – behaved better once they saw the camera.
For the drivers who reached out to Codetic, the logic behind buying a dash cam basically boiled down to an age-old adage: Better safe than sorry.
“I think it’s a great investment to have one,” said Matthew Bourassa, a rideshare driver from Scranton, Pennsylvania. “If you don’t, you really don’t have a way of proving things when s*** hits the fan.”
Dash Cam Regulations for Uber, Lyft (or Any Other Driving App)
Both Uber and Lyft driver policies allow for dash cameras, but the companies differ to local laws about recording passengers, and the onus is on you to abide by those laws.
Most states regulate recording devices to some extent. The restrictions are broken down into “one-party consent” and “all-party consent.”
One-party consent means that as long as you, the recorder, are participating in the conversation, you don’t need anyone else’s permission to record.
All-party consent means every person in the interaction needs to agree to be recorded.
In certain states, failure to get permission to record could result in civil or criminal penalties.
According to Justia, a free court-records and legal-advice database, the following 15 states have all-party consent laws:
- New Hampshire
If you’re ridesharing in one of the above 15 states, you may still use a dash cam, but know that you need to get permission from your passengers to record your trip.
Affordable Dash Cams for Rideshare Drivers
Because of your independent contractor status, neither Uber nor Lyft will cover the cost of the camera, but they might start leasing one to you.
Last year, the New York Times reported Uber began dash cam tests in select areas: Texas, Florida and Tennessee. As part of the program, Uber leased the cameras to drivers for $5 a month, but owning one is a relatively inexpensive option. The dash cameras recommended to Codetic started at $25 for basic high-definition, forward-facing models.
Beals swears by her HD Pyle PLCMDVR54 multi-dash cam. It has a few fancy features such as night vision, swiveling rearview-mirror attachments and DVR recording abilities. But she says it’s well worth it for the added peace of mind.
“Best $100 I’ve spent doing rideshare,” she said.
Adam Hardy is a staff writer at Codetic. He covers the gig economy, entrepreneurship and unique ways to make money. Read his latest articles here, or say hi on Twitter @hardyjournalism.