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The Greyhound

In Wake of Uber Death—Always use Common Sense When Using Ride Sharing Apps


Early in the morning of March 29, 2019 a University of South Carolina student named Samantha Josephson called for an Uber to pick her up from a bar after a night out with her friends. As it turned out,Josephson had not boarded her Uber,but the car of a complete stranger: 25-year-old Nathaniel Rowland. Fourteen hours later her body was found by two turkey hunters in a secluded woodland 70 miles outside of Columbia. Josephson’s death shocked the University, family, and friends as well as the entire nation. Her death has left college students all over the country hesitant to use Uber, Lyft, or other ride sharing services. Josephson’s death was preventable, and it is best to make sure something like this won’t happen to you.

You’d think that getting into a stranger’s car would be a hopefully uncommon occurrence amongst ride sharing users — unfortunately it seems to happen quite often. In February 2017, The Wall Street Journal reported two stories of people having strangers attempt to board their cars mistaking them for Ubers. A pair of musicians in Toronto who stopped to ask for directions, suddenly heard their car’s trunk open as two strangers threw their luggage in.

They had been mistaken for an Uber. The other story was of a comedian driving to a gig in Minneapolis, and as he pulled his car in front of the venue, a couple mistook his minivan for their Uber. In November 2017, Caroline Burt, a Twitch streamer, accidentally boarded a stranger’s car during a livestream—mistaking it for her Uber. Fortunately for Burt, she realized her mistake and managed to get out in time.

Whether to avoid embarrassment, awkward stares, or falling into the hands of a potential criminal — there are features in Uber and other ride sharing apps that you the passenger can use to properly identify your ride. These apps provide important information such as the type and color of your Uber’s car, the name of your driver, the car’s license plate, etc. And if you don’t know what a “Silver 2018 Honda Civic” looks like,there’s an important device that you can use to identify a car you don’t know:it’s called Google images.

When your Uber pulls up, remember to ask the driver for their name or to confirm the driver’s name in the Uber app. The driver may also ask, “are you [name]?” that can provide additional confirmation. Outside of the app features, always remember that Ubers are still technically taxi cabs. As such, many states such as New York and California require Ubers and other ride sharing vehicles to carry commercial license plates — just look for the word “commercial” under the license plate number.

Also remember that Ubers and other ride sharing vehicles require a special sticker or medallion to be attached to the windshield of a registered vehicle, so make sure you look for such a medallion when your Uber pulls up. If you’re coming back from a night out, it’s always best to call an Uber in groups — not only will you pay less as the cost is split amongst the group, but you’ll probably be less likely to have a sketchy driver wanting to do sketchy things to you.

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In Wake of Uber Death—Always use Common Sense When Using Ride Sharing Apps