There has been a rise in cases where female passengers are sexually assaulted by drivers of ride-hailing services. Most of them go unreported. REUTERS PIC

THESE days, many people use public transport to get to their destinations for different reasons; one being that it is faster and more convenient than getting stuck in traffic for hours.

I used to drive everywhere, but for the past couple of years, I’ve come to a realisation that taking the train or engaging a ride-hailing service would get me to where I need to be, minus the hassle and headache of facing inconsiderate motorists on the road.

However, there has been an alarming rise in cases where female passengers were sexually assaulted by drivers of ride-hailing services. We hear about someone almost or actually getting molested or raped by public transport drivers, either in the news or from a friend. Although many cases have been made public, most of them go unreported.

Recently, a 22-year-old university student was allegedly raped and robbed by a driver. The
victim was pulled into the car when the driver pretended to ask her for directions, as she was walking towards a bus stop after a visit to a pasar malam. He
then purportedly drove to a secluded area and raped her,
before allegedly taking her mobile phone and RM100 and
fleeing the place, leaving her behind.

This is not the first time that we have heard of a case like this. The saddest part is that it does not come across as surprising any more. The most heartbreaking part is that many of us respond to news like this with: “Yes, it happened to me/my friend, too.” The worst part is that there is no telling when or where danger lurks; if you happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, you’re done for.

I’m no expert in dealing with life-threatening situations, but I can tell you a few steps of precaution that you can take to stay out of trouble.

I know that there will be times when you have no choice but to use ride-hailing services to get to your destination when you are alone. If you are caught in such a situation, make sure that a loved one knows the details of the driver of the ride-hailing service. You can even screenshot the details and photo of the driver, and send it to someone you trust before you get in the car.

Sit in the rear whenever possible, and arm yourself with a pepper spray at all times. Be ready to strike. If you engage in conversation, make sure not to reveal personal details that might be used against you.

If anyone stops the car to ask for directions, do not go close to the vehicle. You would still be able to give directions from a safe distance, without the need to put your life in danger. If you happen to be at a secluded area, I suggest you say that you are unable to help and walk away immediately. Admittedly, it is not the most polite thing to do, but we live in a time where being helpful sometimes would mean risking our lives.

These are not surefire ways of staying safe, but it may help you to be less susceptible to danger, especially from becoming victims of sexual and physical assault. There are many things that need to be addressed and carried out for cases of rape and robbery to see a decline in numbers.

The public should be more wary and vigilant of their surroundings so that they do not fall into danger traps.

The management of ride-hailing services, or any other modes of public transport for the matter, should be more thorough with performing background checks on drivers.

The authorities should enact stricter laws and punishment for perpetrators, in addition to having more police personnel patrolling the neighbourhood, especially in high-risk areas.

Things do not seem to be going in the right direction at the moment with regard to the safety of the public, especially young women. But, I believe if all of us play our part, there will be an end to this problem someday.

The writer, a lecturer at Sunway College, is a Malaysian-born Eurasian with Scottish/Japanese/ Indian lineage. She believes in a
tomorrow where there is no racism and hatred

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