Is it dangerous/reckless for a young woman to take a taxi at 5 AM?
April 22, 2013 8:12 PM   Subscribe

Is it dangerous/reckless for a young woman to take a taxi at 5 AM?

I'm 21, female. Up until I was a teenager, I was my (Asian) parents' only child, and they have always been very protective of me. We live in different states.

I recently learned I would be traveling for work. I booked a flight for 7 AM, and since I live about an hour away from the airport, I figured I would just get a taxi to come pick me up at my apartment at 5 AM the day of.

When I casually mentioned this to my parents over the phone, they went ballistic. They are extremely upset and insist that it would be not only dangerous but highly reckless for me to take a taxi by myself at 5 in the morning. That I would run a high risk of being robbed, abducted, and/or raped by the driver. They are bewildered that I do not see the danger in this (I mean, I do watch out for myself, but I don't see it as a particularly precarious situation to put myself in), and hung up on me because they were so upset.

From an objective point of view, who is right here?

(If it matters at all, the airport is Dulles international, near Washington DC.)
posted by instantfail to Human Relations (45 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Disclaimers: I am male and live in New York.

Take the cab.

From an objective point of view, I suppose they aren't wrong that you could be abducted or assaulted in *any* situation... but taking a cab by far seems the most sensible choice to me.

Maybe they are displacing their upset-ness about something else besides the cab? Or are they from a state where cabs are less common?
posted by Zephyrial at 8:15 PM on April 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

Wait, this is a proper taxi that you're phoning up through a proper taxi service, right? Not a hack cab? I have taken many cabs in DC at odder hours than 5 am (which really is early, rather than late) and usually the cabbies are just glad I'm not puking on the seats. I mean if you're really worried, send them a text with the cabby's license number and/or photo, but I can't see how that's at all dangerous.
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:15 PM on April 22, 2013 [21 favorites]

It's not crazy to take a taxi, as long as you call a reputable agency and don't just flag one down. That said — while do I occasionally phone for taxis alone in the middle of the night when I have to travel, I am always still a bit scared and keep my phone/keys in my hands, and sometimes will call someone and stay on the phone with them if the driver is unsettling me. Maybe tell your parents you'll do that?
posted by you're a kitty! at 8:18 PM on April 22, 2013

I (female) live in LA and once a month get a taxi at 4:30 am to arrive at LAX at 5 am for my 6 am flight. I have never had any sort of problem. I use a reputable taxi company. When I get to the airport at 5 am, I see dozens of taxis pulling up and depositing business travelers just like me. It's fine- people do this every single day.
posted by aviatrix at 8:19 PM on April 22, 2013 [35 favorites]

You can set up the ride over the interwebs, use a reputable company. It's very common, they even call in advance when approaching your house/apt.
posted by Max Power at 8:20 PM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

(I normally use SuperShuttle, which in my experience in DC is cheaper than a cab to the airport)

I had to have the same conversation with my parents as well -- basically I told them that I thought it'd be more stressful/dangerous to try and take public transit to the airport (because of needing to leave at 3a), and also I let them look at the Yelp reviews of the taxi service.

They ARE being unreasonable, and you should be fine.
posted by spunweb at 8:21 PM on April 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

Your parents are overreacting. Suggesting that you make sure to call a cab from a well-known company rather than flag one down and perhaps asking you to take note of the cab's license plate number and text it to them when you get in the car would be reasonable; telling you you will be robbed/abducted/raped and hanging up on you is not.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:23 PM on April 22, 2013 [6 favorites]

Assuming you call for a dispatched cab from a major company:
Is it reckless? Absolutely not. Is it even a tiny bit dangerous? Only if you don't wear your seatbelt. Statistically*, the most likely scenario involving a threat to life and limb is that the cab gets into an accident. The second most likely, statistically, is that you murder the driver.

* I have not actually looked up the statistics.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 8:24 PM on April 22, 2013 [6 favorites]

You'll be fine, this is 100% normal.

Text your parents the cab info once you get in, and then let them know once you safely get to the airport (which you will.)

Is your other option pub trans? I think a cab is much safer and quicker than schlepping your things through the streets at 4 am
posted by Fig at 8:24 PM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Well if you can swing it, also known as work is paying, take Uber. Car service, easy as can be, costs you about 20% more.
posted by iamabot at 8:24 PM on April 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

In DC I think this is not a risk at all, especially if you set it up in advance with a reputable company. Cab drivers are probably way more at risk than passengers. (But Super Shuttle might be a lot cheaper, the cab ride to/from that airport is really pricy.)
posted by advil at 8:24 PM on April 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

I always call a car service when I have an early morning flight. Sometimes - in general - my driver makes me nervous, but I've never had an issue. If I'm worried I post his name and number on facebook or something (along the lines of "Rocky Smetana, Taxi#324225, rides the brakes. On the plus side, he listens to NPR"). Just a silly post, but if I don't show up where I'm supposed to be there's a public record.

But in years of taking cabs at various hours, the worst thing that's ever happened to me is drivers going faster than I like. OK, there was one driver who was high, but that was in the broad daylight.
posted by bunderful at 8:28 PM on April 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

I grew up ten minutes from Dulles, and it is incredibly safe. If you're an hour away, maybe you're in the city and your parents are worried about that? Even so, call a company and you will remain incredibly safe. Nothing reckless about it.

Your parents are overreacting. It's good to take some measured risks in city living, and trust your own instincts. Your instincts are telling you this is OK, and I think they're right.
posted by sweetkid at 8:28 PM on April 22, 2013

Definitely not reckless/dangerous at all. I'm afraid in this case, your parents are being completely overprotective and unreasonable.

I'd personally recommend Red Top Cab. They're stellar, IME. Never had a problem with them. Someone upthread suggested sending a photo via text of the driver's license plate/photo, and that's a great idea! That should reassure your parents, showing them you care about their concerns, yet showing that you're taking charge as a grown-up and doing what YOU feel is best for yourself.
posted by dubious_dude at 8:30 PM on April 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

Not reckless. Your plan is exactly what I would do in your situation. Wear your seatbelt and you'll be fine.
posted by gingerbeer at 8:31 PM on April 22, 2013

Are you my long lost younger sister? (Asian parents here too - and I totally get what you mean with them going ballistic and overreacting about the most innocuous things - don't let them know you asked strangers on the internet for advice or *gasp* let them know your plans!). Nope, not dangerous. I mean, what other option do you have that is less dangerous? I'd be much more wary of riding public transit at 5AM than riding a cab.
posted by pravit at 8:31 PM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

That I would run a high risk of being robbed, abducted, and/or raped by the driver.

I would say that is *tremendously* unlikely. I think, as others have mentioned, cab drivers are often victims of crimes. But in a place like DC, my sense is that it's exceeding rare for cab drivers, in licenced cabs, to commit crimes. If you do a google search for the phrase ("crimes by taxi drivers" "washington dc") it only yields two hits ON THE WHOLE INTERNET - and those are to articles about crimes committed against taxi drivers.

Why is this so? Consider: Everyone who drives a cab is required to be licenced, to be fingerprinted, and to display a "face card" with their photo identifying who they are, and, as others point out, the dispatcher will know what car was sent, you, as the passenger, can see the licence plate, etc, etc. If you were going to commit a violent crime and wanted to get away with it, I would suggest that about the worst place you could think to commit it would be in the taxi cab you are licensed to drive.

(There are places in the world where cabs are unsafe. Which is what your parents may be thinking of. But DC is not one of those places...)
posted by ManInSuit at 8:39 PM on April 22, 2013 [10 favorites]

I would file taking a real taxi to a major airport at 5am one the least dangerous/reckless things I did when I was 21. Really. You'll be fine.

Think about it: Other than asking a friend/family member or parking long-term, everyone takes some form of secondary transportation to get to and from the airport.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:45 PM on April 22, 2013

Having wandered Oakland at all hours of the day and night I'd say that 5 in the morning is the absolute safest time of day in urban centers and probably anywhere. Most nastiness has gone to bed at that point.

However, the "logic" of the many reasons this is pretty safe is not going to convince your parents. It's not about logic or reason, this is their emotional reaction.
posted by latkes at 8:46 PM on April 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

If your overprotective Asian parents are like my overprotective Asian parents, the danger is entirely in their heads. And even my overprotective Asian parents are okay with taxicabs; in fact, we just had a long conversation about my sister taking a cab instead of public transit to an early flight in New York.

If it makes them feel safer, call them when you board, tell them the taxicab's medallion number and ETA, and promise you'll call them again once you get off at the airport. Then make sure you call them before that ETA, or they will really freak out (and justifiably, this time). Set an alarm if you have to.

Also, did your overprotective Asian parents grow up during bad times? I know a few people with that sort of history, and they all tend to overestimate the danger due to other people (as opposed to, e.g., vehicle collisions, weather, etc.). Nothing you can do anything about, but maybe something to consider in future conversations.
posted by d. z. wang at 8:47 PM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I will say that I once caught a gypsy cab in DC and the dude stared at my breasts and made inappropriate (and weird) flirtatious remarks. On the upside, he introduced me to Go Go.

This was, again, an unlicensed non-cab - just a private car - that I picked up at the bus station. So really irrelevant to your situation! Except to say if you're worried about safety probably don't do that.
posted by latkes at 8:49 PM on April 22, 2013

I wouldn't be at all concerned about taking a cab, but in many ways Super Shuttle is easier and it's certainly cheaper. In my former DC neighborhood (upper NW) it could be really hard to get a cab that early in the morning, and I found that calling ahead wasn't always reliable. If memory serves, cab to Dulles was ~$65 + tip, Super Shuttle was ~$38 + tip. There are Supper Shuttle coupon codes, too.

My overprotective parents (Jewish AND Asian, double the fun!) also used to be very anxious about cabs, but when I started traveling a lot for work they got over it.
posted by charmcityblues at 8:52 PM on April 22, 2013

Tell them you are taking a car service. They will think high-end = safe.
posted by alms at 8:53 PM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Statistically speaking you're probably in more danger just being on the road than being in a cab, so to speak.

Anyway, if it helps, I've been in various metropolises in very shady parts of town at ungodly hours while heavily intoxicated or otherwise out of it and the biggest problem I had was trying to give the driver directions to where I was going and that includes gypsy cabs and black cars in addition to cab services.

The biggest risk is probably a guy who's too chatty but I've had some interesting conversations with cabbies at that hour.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:53 PM on April 22, 2013

It probably depends where you are, and where your parents are, and where they're from (assuming they're immigrants and not just ethnically Asian).

I wouldn't hesitate to take a taxi at 5 AM in any major US city, but I know that in other parts of the world, taxis aren't always reputable. When I traveled in South America there was a warning in my guidebook to be extremely careful taking taxis as people are frequently mugged or even kidnapped by unscrupulous cab drivers. (Not that South America is specifically relevant here, I'm just giving an example.)

Outside of large cities in the US, taxis are not really a thing and are considered sort of a weird service to avail yourself of if you don't have to.

So, there might be a reason for their concern. That reason probably doesn't apply to your situation, though. In my opinion you should take the taxi and just not talk about it with your parents. I just don't think there's necessarily a cut and dry Right vs. Wrong.
posted by Sara C. at 8:53 PM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

That I would run a high risk of being robbed, abducted, and/or raped by the driver

That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. In fact, the "overprotective" reaction is to insist that you take a cab if there's any possible doubt about your safety. Presumably cabs are not a "thing" where they live. In DC, obviously, anyone who doesn't want to be "out" at a time when their safety isn't assured will take a cab.

The worst that can be said about DC cabs is that the odds that they will actually show up when you call them are not that great.
posted by deanc at 8:56 PM on April 22, 2013 [4 favorites]

No. As long as it's a licensed cab, you're more likely to get hit by lightening than assaulted by a taxi driver.

Sara C. is right about foreign taxi situations, but you're in DC.

You're an adult - don't let your parents micromanage your life.

I hope that taking a taxi at 5 AM isn't the most adventurous/risky thing you've done.

The key is to not give your parents information that will lead them to freak out. Why do they need to know how you're getting to the airport?

Do you feel the need for them to approve of and validate your choices? If you want independence, you need to find a way to evade your parents' meddling and not seek their approval for all your (extremely minor) choices.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 9:02 PM on April 22, 2013 [8 favorites]

Outside of large cities in the US, taxis are not really a thing and are considered sort of a weird service to avail yourself of if you don't have to.

The plus side to this is that you have to call to arrange the fare, so you're in complete control of who you get into a car with. As spunweb said, check Yelp and go with the company you feel most comfortable with. And check to see if taxi fares are regulated in your area; here in Santa Monica there's a cap/flat rate (~$30) you can be charged to and from LAX.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:08 PM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, just to clarify, I don't think taxis outside of cities are dangerous, just that people who live in more suburban/rural landscapes often aren't comfortable with them.

I have family in New Orleans, which is a pretty big city, who think it's weird that I sometimes take a taxi to the airport. They don't disapprove (though some will insist that I accept a ride), they just don't get why anyone would do that.

Again, my overwhelming no-brainer OF COURSE advice is that you should obviously take the taxi. I just sort of get that there's context for your parents' reasoning. They're not being completely irrational, they're just being overprotective.
posted by Sara C. at 9:40 PM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

You are far more likely to get in trouble if you don't take that taxi than if you do.
posted by valkyryn at 10:09 PM on April 22, 2013

you're parents' reaction would be reasonable in some parts of the world, as others have said.

the only thing i'd add is that you could have a guy friend, or your dad! call the cab company to make the arrangement. that way, they won't know it's a woman who they are picking up and there is less risk of someone planning something bad ahead of time.
posted by cupcake1337 at 10:18 PM on April 22, 2013

> They are extremely upset and insist that it would be not only dangerous but highly reckless for me to take a taxi by myself at 5 in the morning. That I would run a high risk of being robbed, abducted, and/or raped by the driver. They are bewildered that I do not see the danger in this (I mean, I do watch out for myself, but I don't see it as a particularly precarious situation to put myself in), and hung up on me because they were so upset.

I have highly overprotective parents too, and I totally empathize with how unpleasant it is to deal with them when they are flat-out wrong. Your folks are flat-out wrong. The trick will be figuring out who they need to hear it from to believe it, right?

Your driver is in a HIGHLY regulated industry requiring a complex system of licensing and fees -- on the part of the cab company as a business, and by him as a driver. Your cabbie has invested money in being able to earn a living like this. Also, dispatch has a record of his whereabouts. He doesn't have time to rob, rape, or otherwise assault you.
posted by desuetude at 10:25 PM on April 22, 2013

If one were a white lie teller, one might say that their friend/neighbor was driving them to the airport.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:35 PM on April 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm going to go against the grain here and say you are in the wrong, scheduling a taxi to come at 5 am for an hour drive to the airport and a flight that leaves at 7 doesn't allow enough time for the taxi being late and the drive taking a bit longer than expected. Book the taxi for 4:30, that will be safer than booking the taxi at 5, you don't want to be in danger of missing your flight for work.

Your parents sound unwilling to listen to reason, tell them you have seen the wisdom in their ways and you are going to hitchhike to the airport instead of taking a taxi. (Do not actually do this) If they have any sense at all, they will be far more upset about this, and anything less dangerous you do will be seen as relatively safe.
posted by yohko at 11:18 PM on April 22, 2013 [5 favorites]

"Yeah, just to clarify, I don't think taxis outside of cities are dangerous, just that people who live in more suburban/rural landscapes often aren't comfortable with them. "

Oh, sorry, I didn't mean to imply that! Assuming her folks do think that way, I was just suggesting a possible way to allay their fears.
posted by Room 641-A at 11:28 PM on April 22, 2013

At the risk of belabouring the point, yes, your parents are overreacting. In North America, taxi drivers who work for actual cab companies are generally more in danger from the people they pick up rather than the other way around. I can't really think of a much safer way to get to the airport than a door to door taxi ride.

It's understandable that your parents are worried if, say, they are immigrants and things were different in their home country. However, I think you're right not to want to feed their incorrect ideas and fuel the overreaction. My own Asian mom used to be overprotective too, but she is much more reasonable now. What helped was to reassure her by presenting the facts, then refusing to entertain any wackadoo-ness. As in, sorry Mom,it's not up for discussion anymore. Bye bye, I love you, I'll talk to you later.

I think people who are suggesting you could reassure your parents by texting a photo of the cab's license plate/ID, or having your dad or another male phone the company for you, etc. are well-intentioned, but seriously, that will do nothing to end the mad cycle. You need to be firm and not feed into their incorrect ideas. Be nice, but for heaven's sake don't bend to them and placate them/humour them, or you will be doing this when you are 41, 51, possibly 61!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:34 PM on April 22, 2013 [5 favorites]

I'm female, a similar age, relatively attractive and have been taking 5am taxis to airports alone a few times a year.

I don't even bother booking a taxi - they aren't too reliable at actually showing up here. I walk out into the middle of a relatively busy road going directly into the city (same direction as airport for me) and flag one down.

Half the time I found the driver was a student at the same university as me - once we even knew some of the same people! Never had a sketchy experience.

*This applies to licensed taxis, under fairly strict regulations, in a major western city, picking me up in a fairly safe inner-city suburb.

But do have a plan B if the taxi doesn't show up on time. Or at all.
posted by Ashlyth at 1:42 AM on April 23, 2013

Random things make parents jumpy, just like everyone else. My father doesn't like it when I travel places that are safe-ish (Mexico City, for example). I've always believed in selective sharing. Some call it being sneaky but I don't see anything wrong with giving him info on a need-to-know basis, at least until after I come back from a trip and can say look, it's fine, I'm fine, nothing to worry about. In general, I'm a very honest person but I like to travel and I don't think a greater good is being served by telling him things that he doesn't need to know that will just make him anxious. I'm one of four kids so I tell my oldest sister where I'm going so if anything happens, she knows what's up. My father is comfortable with that deal.

It sounds like you and your folks are close, which is great. I think your plan is totally reasonable but going forward, maybe that's something they don't need to know.
posted by kat518 at 4:23 AM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I live in DC and my wife and I routinely take taxis to the area airports at the wee hours of the morning. Your parents are being overly cautious. Would they be any better if you were to take a shared cab service like Super Shuttle?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 4:47 AM on April 23, 2013

When I worked in DC five years ago I met hundreds of cab drivers on my way into and out of work, and they were really mostly pretty nice. I used to routinely walk outside to hail a cab at 3 or 4 in the morning (I was a mid-thirties woman) to go home, and I never had any trouble with weird drivers. Once hailing a cab on my way in to work I had a cab driver who was strangely insistent about telling me about his belief in sacrificing goats and how he kept up that practice here even though he was far from his homeland, but that was about it. And even that guy was polite, if a bit intense. Others were sexist but not in a threatening way, sort of like grandpa-sexist if that makes sense. So I don't think you will have a problem, as long as you have called a major company like red top or yellowcab etc. Good luck!
posted by onlyconnect at 5:46 AM on April 23, 2013

I have found Super Shuttle (or equivalent) drivers to be about equally sketchy as cab drivers (i.e. not very except for occasional off-color remarks) and at 5AM I would not be interested in dealing with the additional hassle of picking up other passengers.

Do it, don't worry about it, next time don't mention to your parents how early your flight is/how you're getting to the airport.
posted by mskyle at 5:57 AM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

My mother, who once sincerely warned me to "watch out for serial killers" for a trip to Chicago, had no problems with taking a cab from Dulles after 1 AM. I, of course, chided her for her poor judgement, because who the heck takes an $80 cab ride when Super Shuttle is an option?

That being said, there certainly are horror stories if you went looking for them on Google but that's life. DC cabs are kind of crappy and unreliable at times. Sometimes licensed cabbies will let unlicensed friends and family borrow their cab during off hours. Nevertheless, I always pursuade my friends to take a taxi late at night because that's your safest option at night. You should research your best options for cab companies. If you go through the dispatcher, there will even be a record of your trip.
posted by Skwirl at 7:48 AM on April 23, 2013

When I was a young female living in a New York City (I am now a older woman living in New York) I took licensed and unlicensed cabs at ridiculous hours of the night / morning at various degrees of sobriety and the worst things that ever happened to me were drivers taking curves to sharply (oh my stomach), getting slightly lost or the drivers deciding I would make a good second wife / third girlfriend for them... so nothing serious really.

Your decision is perfectly fine, though you might want to schedule the cab to arrive a little earlier.
posted by Julnyes at 7:59 AM on April 23, 2013

You could also offer to call them when you leave your apartment and then again when you arrive at the airport. I did that with my parents a few times.
posted by spunweb at 10:09 AM on April 23, 2013

Super Shuttle schedules trips to get their van full, so your pick-up time is going to be for their convenience, not yours.

Also, if you want to indulge a little paranoia just for the sake of argument, which of these seem to be the better bet for guarding your personal space and belongings?
* Taxi: You're in the backseat, the cabbie is in the front, there is a partition between you. He doesn't get paid until the end of the trip.
* Van shuttle: Sitting with at least a half-dozen other people not of your own choosing in the body of a passenger van while the driver is busy driving the van. Fare is pre-paid.
posted by desuetude at 6:11 PM on April 23, 2013

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