Uber Safety Tips Following College Student’s Murder

Without hesitation, millions of Americans rely on Uber and Lyft to get around quickly and effectively every day. However, after the death of a South Caroline student, Samantha Josephson, people are raising questions on what riders can do to maximize their safety. 

At around 2 a.m. on Friday, Mar. 29, Samantha called an Uber after being separated from her roommates during a night out in Columbia, South Carolina. A surveillance camera shows the 21-year-old getting into the back of a black Chevy Impala that she believed to be her Uber. 

14 hours later, a group of hunters found her body in a field 90 miles from her fun night out. 

Nathaniel David Rowland, age 24, has been arrested on charges of murder and kidnapping in connection with Josephson’s death. Columbia Police Chief W. H. Holbrook says that the victim’s blood was found in the suspect’s car in the passenger side and in the trunk. 

Police haven't said how Josephson died and have not provided much information about Rowland. There is still a hefty investigation in front of them, but for now Uber is working with colleges and local law enforcement across the U.S. to educate and bring awareness to fake ride-share drivers. 

“Everyone at Uber is devastated to hear about this unspeakable crime, and our hearts are with Samantha Josephson's family and loved ones. We remain focused on raising public awareness about this incredibly important issue," a statement from Uber said. 

According to law enforcement officials and ride-share companies, here are a few tips on how you can maximize your safety when using a ride-sharing app such as Uber or Lyft:

Image Courtesy: The Verge

1. Wait Inside. 

This cuts down the time you spend outside and in the open with a phone in your hand, signaling to passing drivers that you may be waiting for somebody to pick you up. Instead, wait until the app has notified you that your driver is close or nearby before going outside to meet them. 

2. Check the License Plate, Make and Model of the Car. 

When you book a ride, a confirmation text is sent to you that describes the license plate and the make and model of the car. It is crucial to know what car you’re getting into. Uber can send you anything from a basic four-door black Sedan to a sports-utility vehicle that is specifically registered with their company. A vehicle that is not what you’re expecting is the most obvious giveaway that something could be wrong. 

3. Ask the Driver’s Name and Your Own Name.

That confirmation text should also include your driver’s name and a picture of them, so make sure those line up. The driver themselves are given the name of the person they are supposed to be picking up, so if you ask them for your name, they should be able to answer. Be sure to never ask, “Is your name ___?” or “Are you here for ___?” Don’t give a name; that is super easy to lie about. 

4. Share Your Status. 

Share your trip details with a friend, family member or a group of people through the sharing option on the app. By adding your destination and sharing through text, others can watch your ride in real time on a map. The “Trusted Contacts” features allows you to add up to five people whom you wish to share your whereabouts when you ride. All you have to do is go to the settings and click “Manage Trusted Contacts;” you can decide if you want to be reminded to share your whereabouts before every trip, every night or never. 

5. Sit in the Backseat. 

If you’re riding alone, always sit in the backseat. This not only gives you and your driver some personal space, but it also allows you to safely exit the vehicle on either side and avoid moving traffic. 

6. Protect Your Personal Information. 

There is no need to share your phone number or other contact information with your driver. If the rider and the driver need to get in contact with each other, the Uber app will automatically hide each person’s phone numbers so that everyone’s information stays safe. 

7. Follow the Beacon. 

Uber offers glowing dashboard lights that they call “beacons” that change colors depending on the hue on the rider’s app. Although the lights are in limited distribution and not every driver have them, South Caroline lawmakers have proposed making it a requirement for every driver to have one – in honor of Samantha Josephson. 

8. Trust Your Intuition.

Trust your instincts. That is the most important thing. And if you feel like you are in a dangerous situation, call 911 immediately.