University and college students across Ontario are travelling this weekend for the start of a new semester.

Many take part in 'rideshares' as a popular alternative to taking the bus. But people who offer and receive a ride should be careful before they hop in a car with a stranger.

“Know who’s driving the vehicle,” said Mike Johnson, who is with Co-Operators insurance in North Bay.

“If it was me, I would check to make sure they have a valid driver’s licence [and] they have valid insurance … before I get into the vehicle.”

driving a car

(Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

Students who frequently share rides with others suggest people find a ride through Facebook groups, rather than anonymous online classifieds.

To arrange a rideshare, a driver posts an ad online and connects with an anonymous person who needs a ride. The price, as well as the time and location for pickup and drop-off, is decided in advance.

Students like Snowden Zeng said rideshares are cheaper, faster, and easier than a bus. The first-year Laurentian student uses one every time he travels home to Kitchener.

But Zeng said it isn’t always the safest option, as he discovered this past holiday.

“At the end he ended up telling me he only had his G1 and … he was driving uninsured for … a few years,” he said. “That was the most sketchy experience.”

Johnson said anyone offering a rideshare is responsible for his or her passengers.

That’s something Sudbury resident Mary Louise Thurston will keep in mind when she takes part in a rideshare for the first time, when she drives her van to Toronto this weekend.

“I thought, hey, what a great idea,” she said. “You go down and you have an empty car or come up and you have an empty car and you can give someone a ride if they [need] one.  And it helps pay for gas.”