The tragedy of the British diplomat Rebecca Dykes who was raped and killed by a taxi driver in Lebanon last week-end, is yet another reminder of the risk taxi rides pose to women. In Rebecca Dykes’ case an Uber driver has confessed. In India an Uber driver was sentenced in October to life imprisonment for raping a woman passenger. Such assaults are frequently reported all over the world. Few taxi operators seem entirely safe, and the number of assaults by unlicensed drivers are probably higher than the those committed by regular ones. A report from the Metropolitan Police London, reviewing incidents from October 2009 to March 2010, observed that ‘between 200 and 250 cases of sexual assault concerning unlicensed minicabs are reported across London every year, however it is conservatively estimated that five times that number go unreported. That gives an average total of 1,125 offences per year, approximately 22 every week. This excludes other crime figures, such as robberies and thefts.’
Is there anything a single woman traveller can do to protect herself against such assaults? In fact, today’s electronic world offers safeguards that are hardly ever used. The following quote from Surviving Kidnappers is one such example:
‘One smart safety measure against taxi drivers you don’t trust, is to fish out your mobile phone and take a picture of the car with its registration number visible before you enter. You may even include the driver in the picture if he is OK with that. To explain, you might say that my organisation (or my husband) demands that I send a picture of all taxis I travel in.’
If you let the driver observe that you are sending this picture, he will know that the risk of getting caught is very high, should he get any nasty ideas. The book also offers advice on how you can use your phone in case you start getting anxious, for instance, because it is heading in the wrong direction or because the driver is behaving strangely. Presenting all of this advice would however exceed the frames of this blog.