‘Panic button won’t save passengers from rape’


PETALING JAYA: The government’s move to make it mandatory that e-hailing companies like Uber and GrabCar implement a panic or SOS button in their apps, will not be of much help in preventing passengers from becoming victims of crime by their drivers, a taxi entrepreneur said today.

Big Blue Taxi Services founder Shamsubahrin Ismail said the measure would not guarantee the safety of passengers from robbery and rape as these acts of crime usually occurred very fast.

“My view is it will only act as a deterrent to Uber and GrabCar drivers from carrying out acts of crime.

“When incidents such as rape take place the victim won’t think of the panic button,” he told FMT.

He said the perpetrator would usually act swiftly and with force, leaving the passenger without any opportunity to seek help.

Describing the government’s requirement of the panic button as impractical, he argued that 70-80% of victims of crime would be unable to call for help in time.

Shamsubahrin was commenting on a statement by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri, who wants the panic button facility streamlined for all e-hailing operations in the country.

She said yesterday that GrabCar and Uber must install the feature for the safety of passengers who frequently used the e-hailing services.

However, Shamsubahrin said the emergency button would only be of use to passengers in instances where drivers either took dubious shortcuts or threatened a passenger during a ride.

He proposed that all drivers wanting to work in the e-hailing industry undergo a proper vetting process to ensure they did not have a criminal record or health problems.

“This will involve the police, the Road Transport Department, the National Anti-Drugs Agency and the municipal or city councils.

“Only then should SPAD (Land Public Transport Commission) give approval for them to begin operating,” he said.

In a statement on June 13, SPAD announced new security measures for e-hailing service providers, including expediting the implementation of the SOS button and submitting records of drivers to enable the agency to conduct stringent background checks.

The move came in the wake of a number of alleged criminal attacks on passengers by Uber and Grab drivers over the past month.

On June 11, a 29-year-old woman was allegedly raped by a Grab driver about 4am in his car at Bandar Putra Permai, Seri Kembangan.

On June 6, a 42-year-old Vietnamese woman claimed she was “ordered” to touch her Uber driver’s genitals after he flashed her during her ride in Penang.

On June 4, an Uber driver in Selangor was arrested for investigation into the robbery of two teenagers, after he diverted from the intended destination and left them stranded in Kajang.

On May 21, a pregnant passenger was allegedly robbed by an Uber driver and his accomplice, causing her to suffer trauma and emotional stress which she claimed led to a miscarriage several days later. Wong Mei Yan, 26, was robbed at knifepoint while taking a ride from Mid Valley to Puchong.

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