Ride-sharing safety in the spotlight following USC student death

April 5, 2019

Last week, 21-year-old University of South Carolina student Samantha Josephson was found dead. She was last seen getting into a vehicle police believe she thought was an Uber driver taking her home.

The man whose car she got into, Nathaniel Rowland, has been charged with kidnapping and murder after allegedly posing as her Uber driver.

Josephson’s tragic death went beyond South Carolina news and made national headlines, partially because of the popularity of ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, which are available nationwide, including in Aiken.

“It brings attention to the need to be informed,” said Lt. Jake Mahoney with Aiken Public Safety. “There is nothing inherently dangerous about use of ride-share services; however, the tragedy at the University of South Carolina highlights the need to be informed and aware of what you should do to protect yourself.”

Mahoney said riders should always familiarize themselves with apps like Uber and Lyft before using them, especially the safety features. Some apps include a one-touch 911 button; others allow your friends to track your trip during your ride.

“Check the license plate and the make and model of the car you’re about to get into with the information provided through your app,” Mahoney said. ”...Any discrepancy is a red flag.”

The Uber app provides riders with information on their driver. According to Uber’s safety tips, riders should always check the license plate, make and model of the vehicle, and the driver’s photo to make sure everything matches the vehicle sent to retrieve them.

Most services like Uber also provide their drivers with the rider’s name. Following Josephson’s death, University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides sent the student body a letter urging them to always ask “what’s my name” before getting into a vehicle to spot predators posing as drivers.

Mahoney also advised situational awareness, and the importance of prior planning for when things go wrong. He also said to never hesitate calling law enforcement, even when there’s only a hint of danger.

″...If you find yourself in a situation where you’re in fear for your life, or even if you’re just scared, call 911,” Mahoney said. ”...If you need someone to call, call us. Our goal is to make sure everyone gets home safe.”