Bad people are everywhere, but should we really stop using Didi?

Math is on your side, you'll be just fine.

The government is right to drag Didi over the coals for this, and to demand answers and action. 

China’s media and social media were dominated last week by news of another young woman allegedly being raped and murdered by a Didi Hitch driver, despite the company promising changes after the first rape and murder occurred earlier this year.

The Hitch service, different from Didi’s standard ride-hailing offering, is often used for long-distance trips, and was especially popular with young people driving long distances to visit family. Car owners could enter the details of a planned trip — for example that they plan to drive from Shanghai to Ningbo on a certain day — and the app would match them with potential customers willing to pay to hitch a ride. Passengers looking for a ride could do that same thing to be matched with a driver.

Didi Hitch doesn’t involve the same checks and balances for drivers as the standard Didi ride-hailing service, which came under a lot of scrutiny when a young flight attendant was raped and killed by a Hitch driver in Zhengzhou, Henan Province, on May 5. 

In that case, the offender wasn’t registered with Didi, meaning he could slip through any checks if they had been performed anyway. Regardless, Didi promised to strengthen its management and processes to protect passengers using their services. Then, two weeks ago, news came of another young woman allegedly being raped and killed by a Didi Hitch driver. 

This time the victim was a 20-year-old surnamed Zhao. Her body was found at the side of a mountain road in Zhejiang Province. 

The ramifications for Didi will be much more severe the second time around, and rightly so.

As it turns out, Zhao had a friend contact Didi to make a complaint while she was being threatened by the driver before her body was found. But Didi failed to act.

The day before, another female passenger complained to Didi after the same man threatened her and drove her to a secluded area off their planned route. Thankfully she escaped and was told by customer service that they’d call her back. 

They didn’t.

As is already obvious, but worth stressing, if Didi acted on this serious complaint, Zhao would most likely still be alive today.

In this regard, Didi is definitely partly at fault. Their processes have clearly failed to protect passengers using their services, and very serious complaints were effectively ignored.

China’s transport and police ministries are right to say that Didi holds “unshirkable responsibility” for the death of Zhao, because it was blatant inaction on more than one occasion that led to what happened. 

The government is right to drag Didi over the coals for this, and to demand answers and action. 

But it’s also essential to add a bit of context to the issue, and to realize that bad things can happen anywhere and at any time, and it’s absolutely impossible to ensure bad people won’t become Didi drivers, or cleaners, or CEOs, or teachers.

Didi Hitch, which is just a small part of the company’s operations, and a smaller part again of China’s total ride-sharing sector, has facilitated 1 billion shared rides since it launched just three years ago. It goes without saying that even one person coming to harm is too much, but it’s hard to disagree that one death in every 500 million rides is mathematically very low.

Just to put that in perspective, the odds of dying in a plane crash are one in 11 million. 

People are right to be outraged, and Didi deserves all the criticism it’s currently getting because of multiple examples of inaction that failed to stop the rape and murder of two young women. But at the same time, don’t let these awful incidents stop you from going about your daily life, even if that includes catching a ride with a stranger to save not only a bit of money, but the environment as well.

Math is on your side, you’ll be just fine.

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