South Carolina

Friends of slain USC student say this question could keep you safe on Uber, Lyft rides

USC community holds vigil for Samantha Josephson

The USC community held a vigil to honor the memory of Samantha Josephson Sunday night at the Strom Thurmond Center Sunday March 31, 2019, in Columbia, SC.
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The USC community held a vigil to honor the memory of Samantha Josephson Sunday night at the Strom Thurmond Center Sunday March 31, 2019, in Columbia, SC.

There are a couple simple questions Uber and Lyft riders should ask to stay safe, the family and friends of Samantha Josephson and the University of South Carolina say after the student was killed when she got into the wrong car.

In a letter to students, USC president Harris Pastides said, “In Samantha’s memory, I ask you to embrace a new pledge ... that you will NEVER use a ride share service without doing the following: Ensure the license plate, make, model and color of the vehicle match what’s in your app and the driver matches the photo and name in the app; AND Ask the driver ‘WHAT’S MY NAME?’ If s/he doesn’t say your name, DO NOT get into the vehicle.”

USC’s Alpha Gamma Delta sorority said on Twitter: “To honor the memory of our sister Samantha Josephson, we join her father and University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides in urging others to ask drivers ‘What’s my name?’ before entering any rideshare vehicle.”

Police say Josephson left a bar in Columbia’s Five Points neighborhood in the early hours of Friday morning and got into a black Chevrolet Impala that she thought was an Uber, The State reports. That was the last time she was seen alive.

Turkey hunters found Josephson’s body the next day more than an hour’s drive southeast of Columbia on a dirt road in Clarendon County, according to The State.

Police arrested Nathaniel David Rowland, 24, for Josephson’s murder. An officer found him driving a black Impala in the neighborhood where Josephson was last seen and arrested him after a short chase, The State reports. Police say they found blood in the car, according to The State.

University of South Carolina student Samantha Josephson was kidnapped and killed when she got into a car she thought was her Uber ride. See how the investigation unfolded and how the community responded to her death.

There have been at least 24 reported attacks, including kidnappings, sexual assaults and robberies, involving people pretending to be drivers for ride-share companies like Uber, according to The New York Times.

“These attacks turn a simple mix-up into a nightmare, showing how easily bad actors can exploit the vulnerabilities of a ride-sharing culture that so many people trust to get them home safe,” The Times reports.

Police arrested a man in Connecticut recently who pretended to be a ride-share driver to kidnap and sexually assault two women in separate incidents, according to the Greenwich Times.

In Chicago, police accused a man of pretending to be a driver for Uber and a taxi company to rape five women in 2017, according to local news site DNAInfo. The man pleaded not guilty and has not yet gone to trial, CBS Chicago reports.

The body of missing University of South Carolina student Samantha Josephson was found in Clarendon County, Columbia Police Department Chief Skip Holbrook said. The USC senior went missing Friday morning after leaving Five Points.

Lawmakers in South Carolina are considering a bill that would require Uber and Lyft to better identify drivers with illuminated signs, The State reports.

Uber suggests safety tips similar to those given by the University of South Carolina:

  • Request your ride inside. Avoid spending unnecessary time outside alone with your phone in your hand. Instead, wait indoors until the app shows your driver has arrived.
  • Get in the right car. Before you get in the car, check that license plate, driver photo, and driver name all match what’s listed in the app. Uber rides can only be requested through the app, so never get in a car with a driver who claims to be with Uber and offers a ride.
  • Be a backseat rider. If you’re riding alone, sit in the backseat. This ensures you can safely exit on either side of the vehicle to avoid moving traffic, and it gives you and your driver some personal space.
  • Follow your intuition. Trust your instincts and use your best judgement when riding with Uber. And if you ever feel you’re in an emergency situation, call 911 immediately.”

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Charles Duncan covers what’s happening right now across North and South Carolina, from breaking news to fun or interesting stories from across the region. He holds degrees from N.C. State University and Duke and lives two blocks from the ocean in Myrtle Beach.