5 Reasons Ridesharing in Mexico is Dangerous

 

Is ridesharing in Mexico safe?  This question comes up over and over in travel forums and most of the responses are fraught with the logically weak and unhelpful gambler’s fallacy:  I took a rideshare in the past and nothing happened so therefore it is safe.  In fact, ridesharing is significantly more dangerous than getting into a licensed taxi, black car, or other forms of transportation.

Whether you are a travel manager that has employees demanding an answer on company policy or a traveler looking for the best way to get around Mexico, it is hard to ignore the convenience of ridesharing.  Locals have the knowledge to determine whether ridesharing risks are acceptable.  As a visitor, however, it is hard to get the perspective you need to make an informed decision.  We give you five very compelling reasons to stay away.   

Here we breakdown why ridesharing is not a safe option for travelers.

  • 1. Driver Vetting does not work.  Ridesharing companies like Uber have had issues complying with vetting standards in the United States even though the United States has some of the most readily accessible criminal records in the World.  If they can’t do it in the United States, how can they possibly perform vetting in countries like Mexico where public records are virtually non-existent and most crimes do not even lead to arrests?  The short answer is that they cannot.
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  • Wouldn’t vetting issues impact the entire car service industry in Mexico? Yes. But there is a difference. While the car service industry at large suffers from the difficulty of vetting, black car companies in Mexico typically have long standing employees behind the wheel. And these long-standing employees see driving as a career.  People that see driving as a profession are less likely to victimize a passenger compared to someone who sees driving as a temporary gig or “side-hustle” as Uber likes to call it.  Driving is the number one killer of American’s abroad. Do you really want to exacerbate this risk with someone who has not only undergone weak screening but who also sees your safety as a hustle?

  • 2. Driver quality is poor.  The on-demand model requires as many as four times the number of drivers as their taxi or black car competition.  In order to keep wait times low and maintain healthy margins, ridesharing companies like Uber, Cabify, or Lyft have to have a huge volume of drivers on the payroll.
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  • This quest for quantity and focus on low-cost and high-efficiency means that driver quality goes out the window. This is a profession after all and there is a reason there are professional drivers.  There is an old engineering adage – you can have something done quickly, you can have something done well, or you can have something done cheaply, but you can’t have all three.  Ridesharing certainly does things quickly and cheaply but there is just no way to ensure the quality over a horde of non-professional “gig” drivers. 
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  • In terms of improving the skills of their drivers through training, the ridesharecompanies are limited in what type of training they can offer due to the fact that the drivers are independent contractors.  Ridesharing companies spend millions lobbying that they are not employing the drivers and if they were to train these drivers they would be contradicting the claim that they are just a marketplace.
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  • Ridesharings focus on driverless or autonomous vehicles shows that they don’t see drivers being part of their future.  Ironically, the most recent accident that Uber had where an autonomous vehicle struck a killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona showed that human employees are not seen as a critical. The monitor that was in the vehicle during autonomous testing was actually a convicted felon that would have never been able to pass even the most lenient taxi certification process. 
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  • Article continued below video

Deadly crash involving self-driving Uber raises questions on company policies

Ridesharing companies are focused on a driver-free future.  It took a terrible tragedy to once again highlight how little ridesharing companies focus on vetting their drivers or employees.  In this case, the person tasked with overseeing safety was a convicted felon.  

  • 3. Rideshare drivers don’t know where they are going. We covered this in more length in another post about route selection. Obviously, not all rideshare drivers don’t know the cities they operate in, but they are not professional drivers and don’t have the same experience or thousands of hours that it takes to understand how to navigate the city, traffic flows, and most importantly, what neighborhoods to avoid.
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  • Ridesharing drivers in the United States rely on their driver apps to tell them where to go. No problem most of the time. But when you are higher crime cities you cannot rely on a mapping application that is deciding on a route based on convenience.
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  • How can an algorithm developed in Silicon Valley know that you should avoid the ten city blocks of a dangerous neighborhood like Tepito in Mexico City? There is no reliable crime database that would tell someone that Tepito and dozens of neighborhoods like it are to be avoided at all costs. One would think that a local would know what neighborhoods are dangerous, but this is a flawed assumption. Cities like Mexico City are massive and high-crime choke points and other dangerous spots is not something the average citizen concerns themselves with unless they are a career driver.
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  • Unfortunately, as a tourist or business traveler you are very unlikely to be aware that you are in a bad neighborhood or on a dangerous route. You cannot rely on the technology to route you safely and you have no idea whether you in a car with an experienced driver.
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  • 4. You are sharing the rideshare platform with criminals. As we covered in an earlier post on ridesharing and the drug trade, ridesharing is a critical part of the distribution drugs and cash payments. This has become a problem in the United States as well, but Mexico’s drug trade is responsible for catastrophic levels of violence.
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  • Unfortunately, there is no way for ridesharing to prevent this from occurring. Drivers don’t even have to be complicit and with the lack of consequences for violent crime, no rational driver is going to refuse to pick up a passenger or make a delivery.
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  • How does this impact the passengers? It puts the passengers in the cross hairs of the drug war. The predominant issue with the cartels in Mexico right now is fighting for territory. Rival cartels are doing anything they can to disrupt their rivals and impacting their ability to make money is a major target. Two American tourists learned this the hard way in Rosarito, Mexico last year when their driver was assassinated. Fortunately for the travelers, they were physically unharmed, but they were very lucky to have survived what was a clear cartel hit.
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  • 5. Ridesharing’s safety precautions are all reactive. The safety precautions they do have are an admission that they don’t know who their drivers are.
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  • Every time a major ridesharing incident hits the news, the reaction from the corporate office is either public relations milque-toast (“we are going to evaluate our driver screening”) or some new feature that they believe shows how technology can solve problems of human frailty or incompetence.
  • The major safety precautions are focused on helping the passenger in the face of a psychotic or potentially psychotic driver. These safety precautions include: 1) transmitting one’s route and ETA to a friend in case the driver is psychotic and does not drop you off; 2) A panic button that alerts the ridesharing corporate headquarters that the passenger is in a car with someone psychotic; 3) Anonymous feedback and driver rating so you can report issues with your driver.
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  • All three of these are completely reactive and unlikely to have any consequences as the only potential impact to the driver is that he loses his “gig” or “side-hustle”. As for anonymous feedback, this is great for customer service but it is a leap to say that there is a correlation between a driver rating and propensity for violence (this Uber driver/murderer had a high rating).
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  • At most these precautions are minor deterrents for a minor criminal but when you view a job as a part-time gig and not a career, the scales with which you weigh your actions are completely different than someone who is looking at driving as a long-term career.

The temptation to use ridesharing is very strong because the technology and pricing are very attractive. Ridesharing in your hometown or in a safer domestic city is a completely different calculation with a different set of variables to assess. What is completely clear, however, is that the determination as to whether to use ridesharing is best made by a local citizen. Ridesharing is a platform for locals and not tourists and definitely not for international tourists.