BE VIGILANT ABOUT RIDE-SHARING: TIPS FOR GETTING HOME SAFE

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Campus party culture at the University of Alabama can affect most of the student population at least once during their college careers. While partying and nightlife can be a fun, exciting experience for college-age students, there are hidden dangers that can go unnoticed by those who are under the influence.

Recently, 61-year-old Tommy Wayne Beard confessed to purchasing an Uber car sign and posing as a driver to pick up incapacitated women leaving bars late at night. The unfortunate fact is that this is not an uncommon experience in college towns. This event has sparked a conversation extending beyond fake rideshare drivers, urging college-age students to remember things to keep in mind when going out.

In an effort of proactivity, WVUA 23 News has compiled a list of ways to help students be more aware and vigilant of potential party dangers. Taking extra precautions to ensure a safe night is ahead can not only put people’s minds at ease, but it can potentially save a life.

1

LET ‘SOBER YOU’ DO ALL THE LEG WORK

There is no one better to handle Drunk You than Sober You. Before the festivities of the evening begin, take a few minutes to write down any pertinent information on your arm or in your phone so someone can identify you and get help, should you end up too incapacitated. Information could include your name and an emergency contact phone number. A good tip is to write this information in the notes feature of your cellphone, then screenshot the note and set it as your lock screen for the night. That way, anyone assisting you does not have to get through a password to find any emergency contacts.

While Sober You is at it, set out a glass of water and some saltine crackers on the bedside table for when you get home. Keep some ibuprofen nearby as well, so Hungover You can grab it in the morning. Drunk You and Hungover You will be grateful.

2

COMMUNICATE

Keeping clear, consistent communication can be a lifesaver in the event of a dangerous situation. Known as “The Golden Hour,” the first day or two after someone goes missing is vital in searching for information, clues and possible leads. To be prepared and potentially helpful in the event of an abduction, a good way to stay ahead of an attacker is to tell a friend or loved one when you plan to leave and arrive at different destinations. It can be as simple as this:

DEPARTURE: “Hey Shana, I am leaving to go to the Red Shed. I’ll let you know when I make it!”
ARRIVAL: “Made it!”
NEW LOCATION: “Going to Innisfree now!”
LEAVING: “Yo Marissa I’m leaving Innis I’ll let ya know when I get home”
CHANGE OF PLANS: “I’m sleeping at Rebecca’s tonight so I won’t be coming home”
DONE FOR THE NIGHT: “Hey Jake I’m home and in bed goodnight!”

In these situations, any form of communication can help investigators during the golden hour. Even if you send a drunk Snapchat message or post to your Instagram story, any record of your travels can be a defining factor in getting you home safely.

Step five of this list explains how rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft incorporate a communication feature into its system. Read on!

3

ABIDE BY THE BUDDY SYSTEM

Friends can make any fun night out better, so keep them close when it’s time to go out on the town. Regardless of how close home may be, no one should walk alone late at night, especially if they are inebriated. Having friends throughout the night adds a sense of familiarity to the evening, and everyone in the group can help keep each other in check. Partying with someone who is familiar with your limits and behavior under the influence can be the difference between getting home safely and not getting home at all.

Moreover, if you are at a bar or club and see someone alone and visibly struggling – having trouble standing, spilling their drink or they just look upset – consider checking on them. They may be crying out for help but cannot do so effectively. Or worse, they may not be fully aware of what they’ve consumed that night. Do unto others. Please.

4

GUARD YOUR CUP WITH YOUR LIFE

It’s unfortunate, but there are bad people in the world who want to put sketchy things in unsuspecting peoples’ cups. To avoid spiked drinks and unsuspecting blackouts, there are a few pro tips you can follow to ensure you are aware of everything you consume when going out.

To begin, cover the top of the cup with your palm so no one can drop something in it without notice. This is a simple method of cup protection that can at least deter attackers from spiking drinks. There are gadgets currently available and in the works that help alert drinkers if their beverage has been compromised, so maybe this won’t be a requirement for much longer, but for the time being, research date-rape drug deterrent methods or keep your drink close and covered.

Speaking of keeping it close, never leave a drink unattended and always try and watch your bartender make it so you’re aware of what exactly is going in your cup. You may witness a liquor overpour, the drink may not be made properly and, of course, you’ll notice any suspicious or unfamiliar ingredients. If you are at an establishment where you can’t babysit the bar until your drink is ready, request for the bartender to hand-deliver your drink to a table or reliable friend. Keeping eyes on your liquor is not only important for keeping track of limits, but also can prevent malicious action.

5

KNOW YOUR RIDESHARE PLANS

Avoiding folks like Tommy Wayne Beard can be achieved by taking a couple of extra steps when ordering a ride home. Uber and Lyft both offer comprehensive methods to help alert loved ones when you arrive at a destination and provide transparency about your driver, their car and your expected time of arrival.

UBER: Ordering an Uber takes about five steps, and if your personal and payment information is already programmed in your cellphone, those steps require about four or five taps of the screen.

When opening the app, it will ask for a destination (1). The app even offers an option to add a designated “home” address, so entering the correct information takes one click (this would be a great idea for Sober You to take advantage of). After that, one click confirms which size vehicle is necessary and if the (hopefully pre-programmed) payment method is correct (2).

A third click will confirm the exact pickup location (3), then your driver is on their way. The app will then show a screen with the approaching driver’s name and face, their type of car, an image of the car and the license plate number (4). From this screen, you can select “Share trip status” to send a notification of your trip to anyone in your contacts (5). Then you are ready to meet your driver (6).

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LYFT: Similar to Uber, Lyft also takes a few quick steps to get a driver to your location. The app opens with a map and a space to enter your destination (1). From there, you will confirm the appropriate car size and payment method (2).

Lyft also offers a feature to schedule a ride for later (3). This is a great tool if plans are set in stone and you know exactly when and where you need to be retrieved.

Once your time, car size and payment has been confirmed, Lyft will ask you to narrow down your pickup spot so your driver can locate you (4). One click later, and you are looking at your driver’s name, car type, a picture of said car, their license plate number and estimated time of arrival (5-6). Lyft also offers a “Send ETA” feature (5-6), where you can send a text message or email (7) that includes a link to your ride status (8).

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A good tip to remember is to ask your rideshare driver to say your name. A fake rideshare driver would not know the name of their victim because they do not have access to the applications or its contents. So, simply asking for verification of whom the driver is looking to pick up can help detect potential attackers and keep you out of danger.

If you do encounter a fake rideshare driver that tries to pick you up, run to the nearest business and alert an employee/bouncer/police officer/patrol person/fellow partygoer. Someone can then alert the police.

These apps are designed to help riders get to their destinations comfortably, quickly and safely. Taking advantage of all the apps’ features can leave a paper trail of your whereabouts, notify friends of your plans and help get you home unscathed.

6

KNOW YOUR LIMITS

Finally, simply understanding your body and how it reacts to various stimulants can mean the difference between a fun night out and a dangerous blackout. Do your best to avoid drinking to the point of incoherence, do not experiment with unfamiliar alcohol or drugs and never mix stimulants with medication. It is perfectly fine to go out and have fun with friends, but being smart, proactive and staying vigilant about potential dangers can ensure Drunk You gets home safe and sound.

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