The recent launch of the women-only ride-booking service Chariot for Women has received a lot of national attention. Started by former Uber driver Michael Pelletz, Chariot for Women seeks to create a taxi service with female drivers who serve women and children only. Pelletz created the service after seeing firsthand how dangerous car services can be for women traveling alone.
The service will provide a slew of safety features that companies like Uber and Lyft don’t provide, such as thoroughly checking each driver’s background, providing a secret word for passengers that will allow them to verify their driver’s identity at pickup, providing a photo of the driver to the passenger and allowing passengers to track their driver’s exact location to ensure they get into the correct car.
The service was set to launch on Tuesday April 19, but its growing popularity has the company looking to expand its original plan of operating out of Boston only. Uber has come under scrutiny recently for multiple violent incidents and sexual assaults involving passengers. While Uber requires its drivers to undergo background checks, some worry that the company is not thorough enough. Multiple cases of assault, harassment and violence have many women fearing for their safety when using these ride sharing services.
The launch of Chariot for Women could be a much-needed service for women and children looking to get around safely. While everyone has been told since birth to never get in a car with a stranger, it’s undeniable that ride-booking services are incredibly convenient, especially for Chariot for Women’s primary demographic of young women. This service is ideal for women who may be leaving unsafe bars and parties only to find themselves in another unsafe situation with their drivers. Chariot for Women offers a safe space for women in a world where such spaces are increasingly difficult to find.
What’s troubling about the launch of Chariot for Women, however, is not the service itself, but the mere need for the service. We must ask ourselves at what point will we entirely run out of safe places for women and start having to make serious cultural changes.
The absurd lengths that women have to go to in the hopes of traveling safely are exhausting. In addition to the huge amount of effort and planning that goes into staying safe during a night at a bar or a party, getting home from these situations proves just as difficult. The fact that Uber handled the incidents of violence so poorly is forcing women to use an entirely new service specially created to ensure that they won’t be attacked while trying to get from place to place.
Even more frustrating are some of the legal hurdles Chariot for Women has faced. Some claim that the practice would be illegal, as it refuses services to men. It is mind-boggling to think that anyone would take issue with women seeking an escape from the serious threat that ride-booking services may pose, but it is important to also remember that men can be victims of assault as well—an issue that Chariot for Women doesn’t account for.
The unfortunate truth of the matter is that getting into a car with a stranger will always present a certain degree of risk. The creation of Chariot for Women is undeniably positive, but only a somewhat immediate solution for a much deeper issue.