Rethinking the Way We Ride

Image via Glas

Image via Glas

In other news filed under “a college student’s worst nightmare,” a 21-year-old girl named Samantha Josephson was recently murdered by a man she thought was her Uber driver. The student of University of South Carolina was supposedly waiting to hop in an Uber after going out and accidentally got into the wrong car.

For many students, the scene of drunk college girl Ubering home after a night out is far too familiar. What’s less familiar, however, is the fact that this particular individual was taken and murdered after getting into the wrong car. The police found Josephson’s body the next day, and 24-year-old Nathaniel David Rowland was charged with kidnapping and murder.

This incident caused an immediate uproar, frightening students and families all over the nation. However, it’s also led to some candid discussions about the safety and accountability of ride-share companies that are way overdue.

Since her death, Josephson’s family has spoken out about the dangers associated with these kinds of companies. In fact, Josephson’s cousin, Seth Josephson, called for ride-share companies such as Uber and Lyft to “provide safeguards to the mistakes that are easily made… the mistake that took Sami from us.”

Over 20,000 people have signed a petition that calls for these companies to add QR codes to protect and verify rider and driver identities to prevent tragedies like Samantha’s. The University of South Carolina also announced a campaign called “What’s My Name?" which urges students to ask Uber drivers to confirm the customer’s name in order to verify that they are, in fact, employees of the company. The university also encourage riders to match the information on the app (license plate, car model, car color, etc.) with the driver. In addition, they suggested students downloaded the RAVE Guardian app, which is a safety network in which users can set safety timers on their phones.

This story hit very close to home for many students, but it has left young women feeling especially nervous and even more at-risk than before. Since Ubers are notoriously called upon during vulnerable situations, it’s hard to think of a way to ensure total and complete safety. However, the Department of Public Safety at Syracuse offered their own advice, proposing steps to help keep students safe.

Some tips include:

  1. Staying inside until your ride is here or until you’re 100% ready to go. There’s a 90 percent chance it’s freezing anyway, so just don’t take the chance.

  2. Confirm driver details using the information given on the app. While making sure your driver matches up with their profile online may not be the first thing that comes to mind when drunkenly stumbling into an Uber, it’s a step that may determine whether you get home safely or not.

  3. Help your friends out. While lots of girls already make it a point to travel in groups, there still might come a situation in which you just want to Uber home alone. In this case, you can share your location with friends or use the feature that allows riders to share their trip to update and assure family members.

Many college students throughout the US rely on ride share apps and implement them routinely throughout their college lifestyle. However, Samantha Josephson’s death has caused many to rethink the way they ride. It’s easy to just jump into an Uber without a second thought, but with recent events, it’s more important than ever to take your safety seriously. Being more aware of your surroundings and taking certain precautions before mindlessly getting into a car can now be seriously lifesaving. Ride-share services are a blessing for college students in many ways, as they can help people escape potentially dangerous situations, but taking the extra steps to make sure your ride is verified and safe could make the difference between getting home and not.