Tony Peltier will never forget the morning when he found his calling.
At first, it seemed like it was going to be a typical day. Peltier was behind the wheel of his minivan driving for Lyft, which he did on the weekends to supplement his income, and he got a notification to pick up a female passenger who needed a ride to the airport
“We started talking and she confided that she had been sexually assaulted by a Lyft driver. We ended up crying together,” Peltier recalled. “And when she shared that horrible experience with me, I immediately understood a couple of things. First, women traveling by themselves are at a much higher risk than people traveling in a group. Second, rideshares can provide an opportunity for drivers to not only be unprofessional but to also be predatory in a controlled environment with consistent access to people they want to prey upon. Third, somebody really needed to step in and be an advocate for women in these situations.”
Peltier decided he was going to be that person and in 2018, he founded Brooklyn Park-based Tony Goes There. His mission is to provide the safest and most reliable transportation option for women in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and he’s proud to offer such a valuable service to the people who need it most.
“I love my wife and I would want someone to treat her well if she was on her own and using a rideshare service,” Peltier said. “I also have identical twin girls and I want the world to be a better place for them and have them be knowledgeable and aware of their surroundings so they’re not putting themselves at risk.”
In May 2023, Peltier hit the 10,000 ride mark – the majority of them to and from the airport – and he couldn’t be happier with the career path he’s chosen.
“I love what I do and I feel the purpose in it every day,” he said. “I’ve tried to consistently build connections and trust and now I’m at the point where the world of mouth and brand recognition has spread to where I don’t really need to advertise anymore.”
Unfortunately, Peltier is only one person, which means that if you’re using a rideshare service, you may not get a driver who has the same good intentions that he does. That’s why it’s so critical for riders – men as well as women – to be alert and pay attention when they get into a car with someone they don’t know. Next time you’re riding in an Uber, Lyft or taxi, here are Peltier’s recommendations for ensuring that you arrive safely at your destination:
- Be aware of your surroundings: When you call for your ride, look around you. Are you standing in a dimly lit area? Will your driver be able to see you? And if you’re being dropped off at, say, a large apartment complex, do you know exactly where to have the driver let you out? The last thing you want is to be left wandering around an unfamiliar area late at night. Keep an eye on everything that’s happening around you – the landmarks, the people, anything that seems noteworthy. You never know when you might need that information.
- Verify your ride: Peltier sees it all the time – people have their eyes glued to their phones while they wait for their ride and once the car arrives, they hop in without a second look. Don’t fall into a potential trap. Verify that the plates on the car match the ones listed in the app. See if the driver looks the same in person as he or she does in her online photo. “I’ll see people get into the wrong car and they’re like ‘oh, sorry, my mistake,’” he said. “Just take one minute to check everything out – it’s going to save you from a whole bunch of problems and you won’t be putting your safety at risk.” And if something doesn’t seem right, don’t get into the car. It’s just not worth it.
- Have an accountability partner: Of course, traveling in a group is what’s safest, but if you have to ride alone, let a friend or a family member know your itinerary. Send a text that includes the following information: the location where you’re being picked up, a description of the car and the driver and your destination and ETA. You may even want to include an emergency contact so if for some reason you don’t arrive as planned, your friend or family member can reach out to that contact and let them know that something may have gone awry.
- Evaluate the vehicle and the driver during your ride: Violence and sexual assault aren’t the only bad things that can happen in a Lyft or Uber. If the car you’re riding in isn’t well maintained and your driver is driving erratically, you could be putting yourself at risk from a safety standpoint. That’s why Peltier encourages riders to monitor the vehicle and the driver during their trip and take mental notes. Here are a few things to look out for: Does the car have a bunch of “check engine” lights on? Is it making weird noises? Do the seatbelts work? Does it reek of cigarette smoke? Is the driver on the phone the entire time? Speeding? Driving aggressively? Is it possible the individual is under the influence of drugs or alcohol? Share that information with your accountability partner as a record and if something seems truly dangerous, take advantage of the emergency/panic buttons located within the Uber and Lyft apps to end the ride immediately or get assistance from law enforcement. And when the ride is over, don’t give the driver a stellar rating unless he or she really deserves it. “There’s too many people out there that give someone a five-star review just because they got them to the place they needed to go,” he said. “All those factors I mentioned should come into play when giving a review. That way, the next passenger has an accurate report of what risk they might be taking on if they have this person drive them.”
Want to catch a safe ride with Tony in his six-passenger minivan? He’s offering 20 percent off your first ride for new customers only for a discount of up to $100 – men and women welcome! You can reach him at (612) 790-8070.
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