Lyft aims to make rides safer with 911 panic button in the app

After alleged attacks and sexual assaults by its drivers, the ride-hailing company adds more safety features.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
2 min read

See how small the driver's license plate number is in Lyft's app? The ride-hailing service is now making that image bigger.


Lyft announced new features for its app on Tuesday aimed at improving passenger safety. Along with a button in the app that lets riders dial 911, the ride-hailing company is making the image of drivers' license plates bigger.

"Lyft is relentlessly focused on finding new ways to further strengthen safety measures on our platform," Mary Winfield, Lyft's head of trust and safety, said in a blog post.

The move comes after scores of assaults, kidnappings and rapes have allegedly been perpetrated by Lyft and Uber drivers. A report by CNN last year found more than 120 Uber and Lyft drivers reportedly sexually assaulted their passengers. And a handful of states -- including California, Colorado, Massachusetts and Texas -- have previously launched investigations into Uber and Lyft, alleging they routinely fail to screen drivers adequately and have hired drivers with criminal histories.

People posing as drivers is also an issue. Just last month a student from the University of South Carolina was allegedly murdered by a man who said he was her Uber driver. And in San Francisco, Orlando Vilchez Lazo -- a man labeled the "rideshare rapist" -- was accused of sexually assaulting four women in separate incidents. Lazo was a Lyft driver, but because of ongoing litigation, it's unclear if he was posing as a driver during these incidents or using the app.

San Francisco launched a public awareness campaign in September called "Rideshare with Care" urging passengers to verify the license plate of their Uber or Lyft ride before getting in. 

Lyft's new features are aimed at this same idea of getting riders to check their driver's license plate. And, if something goes wrong, they'll be able to contact the authorities quickly with the 911 panic button. Lyft announced last month that it'd also run background checks on its drivers on a yearly basis.

Uber rolled out similar safety features over the past year, including an in-app emergency 911 button and annual background checks on its drivers. People using Uber's service can also anonymize their pickup and drop-off locations so drivers won't be able to keep exact trip location information after the fact.