In light of the recent killing of Samantha Josephson, a USC student who was brutally murdered after accepting a ride from a driver she thought was her Uber, it’s important to remember a few simple steps to ensure safety when catching a ride.
Uber has made it convenient to get from point A to point B with the touch of an app. According to MuchNeeded, there are 75 million Uber users. Many of these riders will use Uber services when they are intoxicated because they are unable to drive.
Samantha’s situation was no different.
Josephson was waiting for her Uber outside alone after a night out with friends. Security footage was able to prove this. When a Chevy Impala pulled up, she got into the vehicle. After 14 hours, her body was located in a field by turkey hunters. She had multiple stab wounds on her body, including her face, head, upper body, leg and foot.
If this doesn’t make riders more conscious of their surroundings before getting into an Uber, maybe this will. CNN found that 103 Uber drivers in the U.S. have assaulted or abused their passengers in the past four years. No one thinks it will happen to them, but it can happen to anyone.
Sydney Cary is a senior in college who uses Uber’s services often.
“I think colleges should be more vigilant in protecting the safety of their students. Some schools don’t offer transportation and a lot of these problems would be eliminated if they did,” Cary said.
There are different ways to stay safe while in an Uber or Lyft, or before getting into one.
Opening the Uber app. Gif made by Sophia DeVito.
1. Read the License Plate
There are currently 19 states that don’t permit license plates on the front of the car, making it difficult to figure out if the car pulling up is the correct Uber. Walk around to the back and double check the letters and numbers. If they don’t match, that isn’t the right ride.
2. Request Rides Inside
Don’t wait around on street corners or sidewalks. Wait until the app’s notification that the driver is close or has pulled up. Minimize the time waiting alone outside.
3. Ask “What’s My Name?”
Since Josephson’s death, her parents are trying to their message across the U.S. in hopes this won’t happen to someone else. “Before you get into a rideshare ask, ‘what’s my name?’ and remember hers.” If they don’t know who you are, they clearly aren’t your Uber driver.
4. Give Feedback
After the ride is complete, a star rating will show up on the Uber app. If the driver gave off an uncomfortable vibe, be sure to note that in a review. That way Uber is notified if the driver isn’t doing what they are supposed to.
5. Share Trips
Uber allows their riders to share their trip status with friends or loved ones. This will send the drivers name, license plate, photo, phone number and location. That way, if something were to happen, it is easier to track down the location.
“Uber also has a feature that you can add ‘trusted contacts’ that notifies whoever you choose when you are picked up and arrive at your location, and I think everyone should be adding their roommates or emergency contacts into that,” Cary added.
6. Don’t Travel Alone
It is possible for something to happen while with a friend; however, it is more unlikely. Travel with at least one other person and always sit in the backseat. This way, there is space between the driver and the rider, and there are two exits in the backseat rather than just the passenger side in the front.
7. Uber’s New Alert System
In light of Josephson’s death, Uber has implemented a new alert system to the app. Upon opening the app, the first alert will say, “check your ride every time.” The second alert comes after ordering a ride, serving as a reminder to check the license plate, car details and photo. The third comes right before the driver has arrived, reminding once again to check the drivers details.
8. Trust Your Gut
On the Uber app, there is an emergency button that will call 911 if pressed. If a rider suspects danger, they can tap the button to be on the safe side. This can be reached in the Safety Center provided on the app.
9. Follow Along in Maps
Make sure the Uber driver is taking the right route by entering the location into Google Maps. Follow along and note if the driver makes any weird turns.
10. Keep the Window Open
Even if it’s a chilly night, having the window open can allow the rider to shout for help if they feel threatened. It’s just an extra option in case needed.