In the wake of 21-year-old University of South Carolina student Samantha Josephson's suspected murder, college students and Uber or Lyft frequenters are questioning the safety of ridesharing and reevaluating the precautions they take before hopping into a stranger's car. The frightening reality of Samantha's story that's struck a chord, particularly with young college women, is that what she was doing, waiting for an Uber after a night out with friends, is what we find ourselves doing every weekend.
It's impossible not to think that could have been any young girl, in any college town, on any given night.
From surveillance footage, we know that at 2 a.m. outside of a bar in Columbia, after splitting up with her friends earlier in the night, Samantha Josephson had requested an Uber to get home and accidentally hopped into the backseat of a black Chevy Impala driven by Nathaniel David Rowland instead of her Uber. This was the last time Samantha would be seen alive. It wasn't until the next day that her roommates reported her missing, only for her to be found in a field by turkey hunters in Clarendon county over 90 miles away. Samantha's death was determined to have been caused by multiple stab wounds across her upper body, legs, and head.
The prime suspect in her death, Nathaniel David Rowland, was arrested the next day after his car was recognized by an officer who matched its description to the surveillance camera footage. The victim's blood and cell phone were recovered from the car along with bleach, germicidal wipes, and window cleaner.
On Sunday, a vigil was held in her honor where her boyfriend, Greg Corbishley, and her father, Seymour Josephson, both spoke. Josephson urged the students in attendance, "You guys have to travel together… Samantha was by herself. She had absolutely no chance… You get into an Uber, you don't know if it's an Uber, you don't know anything about it. I don't want anybody else to ever go through this again, I can't tell you how painful this is."
Samantha's story is a frightening wake-up call; the apps and services such as Uber or Lyft that us students use as a means of safely getting place to place so as to avoid walking late at night or driving intoxicated, are no longer guaranteed to be safe. It's imperative that from this tragedy we improve the safety of ridesharing and learn to protect ourselves and teach others how to do so as well.
Given here are several of the most necessary precautions to take when using ride-sharing services.
Order And Wait For Your Ride Inside.
Rather than walking outside and waiting on a sidewalk or curb for your ride, staying inside until you receive a notification that your ride has arrived is much safer. Not only are you generally safer indoors, especially at night in busy towns/cities/bar sidewalks, standing outside on a phone obviously searching for your Uber makes you an easy target for predators. Wait inside and walk to your ride only after your driver has alerted you that they are waiting. Don't worry about your driver waiting too long, they are required to wait several minutes before canceling your ride and often, drivers will call you if they feel you're taking too long.
Check The Driver's Stats.
You can review your Uber or Lyft driver's entire profile right from the application on your phone. Not only is it important to look over your driver's rating to make sure it is high, but it is also necessary to see how many rides they have completed. If a driver has few or no rides or their rating is low, it might be smart to request a new driver. Never feel bad about canceling your ride because of the driver. That is exactly what the driver statistics are provided for!
Double Check All Info.
Before you even begin to approach the vehicle you think might be your ride, have all the information you are provided by the app of your ride up on your phone screen. Check that the car's make, model, and license plate match exactly to the description you are given. After confirming these details, approach the car and look at the driver to ensure they also match the picture you're given through the app.
NEVER Ask If The Ride Is For You.
After you have checked to be sure that the car and the driver's appearance are the same as in your app, open the front passenger door and ask for the name of the passenger that they are supposed to be picking up. DO NOT ever ask the driver, "Is this for (your name)?" After you have given your name, there's no way you can absolutely guarantee that it is your driver except by taking their word for it. Instead, ask who they are supposed to be driving. If a driver is rude, hesitant, or refuses to give your name, feel free to cancel the ride or call the number of the driver you were given.
Sit In The Back (But Check Child Locks).
Sit in the backseat to create space between you and the driver, especially if you are riding alone. Even though the car you're in is your ride, you still need to be aware that you are in a car with a stranger. Regardless of their experience and rating, safety is your top priority. However, check the child locks on the doors in the backseat before the car even begins to move. Inform your driver that you are doing so as well. A polite driver should have no issue with you asking to test the child locks or with you asking them to unlock the child locks if they are on.
Follow Along With The Route.
Uber and Lyft apps give you the ability to see the route given to your destination and follow along with the car you are in while along the route. Pay attention to any deviations from this route carefully.
Live Share Your Trip.
Uber gives you the ability to share your rides and allow up to five trusted contacts you provide to receive live updates of your trip. The app will remind you to share your trip before every ride by sending you a notification, and this gives your friends and family the ability to know exactly where you are, your driver and car information, and when you have arrived. To do this, go to the sidebar menu on the app, press Settings, Manage Trusted Contacts, and Add Contact.
Know The App's 911 Features.
Both Uber and Lyft have emergency buttons while you are on your trip if you cannot call 911. Simply press the emergency or 911 option from the app and emergency services will be notified immediately.
Trust Your Instincts.
Above all else, trust your intuition and your instinct. Even if you feel that you are overreacting or taking too many precautions — don't. Your safety should always be your first priority. More often than not, when something feels off, it is. Trust your gut and make smart and proactive decisions.
The explosion of ridesharing apps and services in recent years has proven to be incredibly successful in easing user's accessibility to cheap and easy rides to quickly get from place to place in relatively any town or city in the United States without the bother and price of taxi services. It's unrealistic to completely abandon Uber and Lyft because of incidents like Samantha Josephson's, and the safety benefits of ridesharing still greatly outweigh the possibility that something could go terribly wrong.
However, to ensure your safety and the safety of your friends and loved ones when using these rides, it's important to be incredibly cautious on every possible front and exhaust all resources given to you so that you know the vehicle you get into is your registered and assigned driver. Be wary, protect yourself, and join and share the movement of "What's my name?"