Jessica Kennedy, Contributing Writer |
With the rising popularity of ride services of companies such as Uber and Lyft, more and more people have begun questioning the safety of these transportation services. The drivers of these companies use their own personal vehicles with a small tag in their windshield signaling their association with a ride service. For Samantha Josephson, the lack of identification of Uber’s vehicles was the cause of her death.
On Saturday, March 30, University of South Carolina student Josephson was found dead in the rural part of Clarendon County in South Carolina. She intended to take an Uber home the night before, after hanging out at the bars with her friends. Security footage from the bar showed 21-year-old Josephson on the phone while mistakenly entering the vehicle of someone posing as an Uber driver. The driver of the car, Nathaniel Rowland, drove away with Josephson and later killed the college student and discarded her body in the woods.
After Josephson’s friends reported her missing the next day, authorities matched the car from the bar’s security footage and tracked down Rowland. The police found numerous cleaning products in the car attempting to cover the traces of Josephson’s blood, which the police were able to match and use to arrest Rowland. The Columbia Police charged Rowland with kidnapping and murder. Since the tragic kidnapping and murder of Josephson, the University of South Carolina has sent its students a list of safety tips to keep in mind when using a ride service like Lyft or Uber. This list includes advice to travel in groups, stay in well-lit areas, clearly identify that the car’s license plate matches the one shown on the app, and ask the driver whom they are picking up before you enter the car. It is also beneficial to stay inside while waiting for your transportation service to arrive and alert a friend or family member when you are getting picked up if you must travel alone.
Since Josephson’s death, the state of South Carolina has also taken more safety measures with ride services to ensure the security of the transportation companies’ users. South Carolina’s General Assembly has proposed a bill titled the “Samantha L. Josephson Ridesharing Safety Act.” This act requires transportation network company vehicles to display illuminated signs of the ride service company they are driving for, which must be illuminated at all times when the driver is active.
With the help of the University of South Carolina’s list of safety tips and the state’s new act, the security of students and all ridesharing users will likely increase. With more people aware of these safety tips and drivers using illuminated signs on their vehicles, fake Uber drivers will be unable to prey on innocent people.