Be wary when using ridesharing apps

Graphic by Maria Nevada

Megan Schneider

A 21-year-old University of South Carolina student was killed after mistakenly getting into the wrong Uber ride around 2 a.m. on Friday, March 29. Investigators believe Samantha Josephson was traveling alone when she stepped into her suspect’s unmarked vehicle after a night out with friends.

Surveillance video captured Josephson entering a black Chevy impala after she left a bar. She lost her freedom and ability to escape after she entered the suspect’s vehicle. The child safety locks were activated in the backseat of the car, so she wouldn’t have been able to break free.

Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook said, “We believe… that she simply mistakenly got into this particular car thinking it was an Uber ride,” according to CBS News.

Police arrested the suspect after conducting a traffic stop on his vehicle on March 30. He was arrested and charged with kidnapping and murder.

The heartbreaking news of an innocent life taken too soon sparked the nation into action. Harris Pastides, president of the University of South Carolina, said he would help prevent another tragedy like this from happening.

The University of South Carolina is launching a national campaign called “What’s My Name” to help increase safety while using rideshare services, according to NBC News.

“We want every college student in America to take a pledge that says they will never get into a rideshare without first asking the driver, ‘What’s my name,’ to make sure that they are getting into the right vehicle,” Pastides said in an interview with NBC News.

Every Uber driver is aware of the name of the person they are picking up before a ride due to an alert sent out via its mobile app. Simply asking “What’s my name” before traveling with Uber in the future can potentially save a life.

Pastides addressed the problem of people impersonating rideshare drivers as a national issue, rather than a local one. Parents of University of South Carolina students were concerned about the safety of their children in Uber rides after Josephson’s death.

“We thought we had a safe city here and a safe campus, but this might happen again this weekend if a student gets into one of those vehicles and hasn’t fully confirmed that it’s the right vehicle,” Pastides said.

Inquiring on an individual’s own first and last name with their potential Uber driver adds a new level of safety within the app. “I think we owe it to the college population in the U.S because this will happen again if we don’t follow safety precautions,” Pastides said.

In Josephson’s memory, a bill was introduced in the South Carolina legislature that would require both Lyft and Uber drivers to disclose a bright sign on their car window.

The bill is called the “Samantha L. Josephson Ridesharing Safety Act” and demands all transportation network companies (TNC) similar to Uber or Lyft “possess and display certain illuminated signage at all times when the TNC driver is active,” according to CBS News.

Fellow college students can keep Josephson’s memory alive by taking precautionary steps when requesting their next Uber ride. She planned to attend law school after her college graduation this May. Josephson will never be forgotten, but always remembered.