When 21- year-old, University of South Carolina student Samantha Josephson entered a black Chevy Impala that fateful March night, she expected her Uber to take her home, safe and sound. The next day, Josephson’s battered body was discovered by turkey hunters in a wooded area sixty miles away. Why did this senseless tragedy happen? Josephson had sadly mistaken the car to be her Uber ride. Once inside, Josephson was unable to get out. The driver, Nathaniel D. Rowland, employed the child-safety locks—making it impossible for her to get out from inside.
News of her death has devastated the community and put the entire nation on alert. The tragic death of Samantha is sadly only one of several incidents involving common rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft. According to the public awareness campaign, “Who’s Driving You?” there have been “52 deaths, 102 assaults, 395 alleged sexual assaults, 22 alleged kidnappings, and 26 felons driving behind the wheel” since the campaign first began tallying incidents from around the world in 2013.
The initiative, led by the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association (TLPA), urges the public to take steps in order to maintain their own safety before entering these vehicles. Without doing so, they urge that everyone is in danger. “Understanding the methods by which Uber and Lyft undercut for-hire vehicle safety—via inadequate insurance, background checks, and more—requires knowledge of the for-hire transportation industry,” the campaign urges. “Who’s Driving You?’ explains the safety components Uber and Lyft are evading and why they are vital for the wellbeing of passengers and communities.
While this campaign may shed a negative light on such rideshare companies, this is not an attempt to have the public stop using their services. It is only urging all to do more research into who exactly is driving the car they are getting into. What are the exact steps one needs to take in order to ensure that their own ride is safe? Read on for a few simple yet pertinent steps to help all maintain safety once on the road.
Tip # 1: Ask the driver what your name is. Asking a simple question — “What’s my name?” —can greatly help keep riders safe. This is the question the new public safety campaign that followed the death of Samantha Josephson is asking people to do before they get into a rideshare car. While this is such a simple question, it is one that can easily prove whether a driver is legitimate.
Tip #2: Check the license plate, make, and model of the car. The car that arrives to pick one up must be the same as the car listed within the rideshare app. Most apps, like Uber and Lyft, provide very detailed information about the car’s make, model, color, etc. These apps also include a picture and brief history about the driver so that you can compare it.
Tip #3: Don’t just sit anywhere. A good spot to sit is in the backseat, passenger side. This way, you can have full view of the driver, and what they are doing. Another great spot is to sit in the passenger side seat, if you feel comfortable sitting there, this gives the rider a great advantage to see what the driver’s GPS is telling him, and also avoids the risk of sitting in a seat that has a child protection lock utilized.
Tip #4: Choose a safe, public location for pick up and drop off. If you are getting picked up outside of a bar, ask the driver to pull up to the front, or the side of the bar, where people are still nearby. As far as drop off goes, it is not wise to give a stranger your home address. If it is early and the weather is nice, consider having the driver drop you off a block away.
Tip #5: Share your travel information with close friends/ family. Communicating your travel route is a smart and easy way to ensure a safe ride. Share your trip details with a friend, relative, or a group through the sharing option available on most of the rideshare apps. By adding your destination and sharing through a text, others can watch your ride in real-time. They can see you traveling on their own map of your route. The “Trusted Contacts” feature allows you to select up to five contacts to share your whereabouts for every ride.