Safety when sharing; an interview with Paul Wilde, founder of Just Give It A Thought

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Sharing with new people can be daunting, but of course, we can’t get by in life without interacting with strangers. The safety of our members while sharing is priority for Liftshare, and we want everyone to have happy, healthy experiences when riding with others.

So we decided to take our cause to the experts. We caught up with Paul Wilde, the founder of a great personal safety and self defence charity called Just Give It A Thought, to talk to him about the issues and get some tips on how to stay safe when liftsharing.

“​By thinking about our personal safety more, even just a little bit, by challenging the attitudes that threaten it and by implementing simple safeguards in our life, we can improve our personal safety without having to change our lifestyles. That bit is very important to me, we shouldn’t have to change, we are free and we shouldn’t be afraid, there are things we can do in our day to day lives that don’t impact on our lifestyles.”
–          Paul Wilde, Just Give It A Thought 

Hi Paul. So, who are Just Give It A Thought? What’s the charity about?
Just Give It A Thought is a charity that inspires thought into personal safety, and promotes small and effective safeguards that don’t require you to change your lifestyle. Liftsharing can be a great way to save money and help do your bit for the environment, but it does present the problem that you will be sharing a car with someone you don’t know. However, personal safety should never stop you from living your life the way you want to live it and there are some simple and effective safeguards you can use to make your liftsharing experience a safe one.

What small, easy things can I do to improve my safety when liftsharing with someone new?
We promote the use of small and effective safeguards that integrate into your lifestyle. One of the easiest ways to do this is to consider the concept of ‘network safety’.

Network safety is the idea that by creating a culture of safety with your friends and family, you increase the safety of everyone in the group. It is a fairly simple idea that when applied can grow exponentially into a ‘culture’ that requires little or no conscious effort.

This applies very easily to lift sharing, and is directly in line with the advice that Liftshare.com already give. If your family, friends or partner, knows who you are travelling with, when you are travelling and when you safely reach your destination, then you have increased your ‘network safety’. This can be applied as little or as much as you are comfortable. For example, it could be something as small as ‘checking in’ at your destination, or as much as sending the details of your travelling companion to your friends and family.

Are personal safety concerns and dealing with strangers really in sync?
Dealing with strangers can always present personal safety concerns, however the advantage of Liftsharing is that you have time to prepare. It is how you prepare and how you safeguard yourself during your car share that has the power to reduce any risk to your safety. For example, find out as much about the person you are meeting as you can, their name, where they work etc. You wouldn’t go on a date with someone without knowing a little about them, so why get in a car with them? Then, and perhaps most importantly, share this information with your family, friends or partner. If you do this, something as simple as a text to say everything is as it should be when you meet up with your sharer, coupled with a message to say you got to your destination safely, should be enough to make everyone feel at ease.

So, I’m arranging a carshare with someone I haven’t met before. How can I do this online without giving away all of my information?
This can be difficult if safety isn’t at the forefront of your mind, but the easiest way is to follow the social media model. With social media, you can spend all day talking to one of your closest friends but if you go to their about section, it still probably won’t tell you their home address. Most people will be able to find your name, email, where you work, the city where you live and a profile picture, especially if you have made this information available online through Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. There should be no need to give any more personal information.

I’m female. Should I be worried about liftsharing with a guy?
Travelling with a member of the opposite sex does not necessarily increase risk, however it is important that you put safeguards in place. Trust your instincts and use your safety network.

How do I know the person I’m travelling with is who they say they are?
It should be fairly easy to verify the information you have collected prior to meeting, something as simple as a driver’s licence can verify their name (you can use your passport if you don’t want to share addresses). It is also worthwhile to ask to see proof that they work where they claim to (an id card or name badge). If you set the expectation to see these before you meet, it will make asking to see them much less awkward. If everything checks out a simple text to your partner or family can put everyone’s mind at ease, especially when followed by another message when you reach your destination. Try not to feel awkward about protecting yourself, if you are travelling with the right person your attention to detail should make them feel safer too.

If I’m not comfortable on a journey, realistically, what can I do?
Always trust your instincts – all the personal safety advice in the world can’t replace that feeling of feeling uncomfortable or unsafe. Every situation is different but if you can excuse yourself from the situation, if you have to be late to work or catch the bus instead, it is worth it, trust your instincts. Many personal safety apps will also allow you to alert your chosen contacts that you feel in danger with the touch of a button and if the situation calls for it, always call 999.

You can read more on personal safety at the Just Give It A Thought website, and in the Liftshare.com Safety Tips section.

Author Lex Barber

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