The Dangers of Using Uber

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Hannah Davis Outside of every restaurant, night club, or stadium, crowds of people gather anxiously awaiting their ride. Since its founding in 2009, Uber and other ride-sharing services like it have been heavily integrated into our culture. While these services have made it easier than ever to get around, some people are trying to take advantage of the phenomenon by posing as Uber drivers. Fake Uber drivers loiter outside these popular destinations waiting for unsuspecting users to mistakenly enter their vehicles, even using fake Uber stickers. Last year, the Today Show did a segment where Jeff Rossen posed as a fake Uber driver outside of a nightclub and waited to see how many people would mistakenly get into the car. Passenger after passenger, both men and women, fell for it before he clued them into their mistake. On Friday, April 5th, in the most recent of these cases, University of South Carolina student 21-year-old Samantha Josephson was kidnapped and murdered by a man posing as her Uber driver. During her night out that Thursday, Josephson got separated from her friends. Around 1:30 pm the next day, her friends got worried as she hadn’t returned home and decided to call the police. Later that afternoon, a couple of hunters found her body 40 feet off a dirt road in a wooded area in Clarendon County. The autopsy confirmed she died from “multiple sharp force injuries.” Nathaniel David Rowland, age 24, was arrested for the murder and kidnapping after he was pulled over Saturday when police recognized his vehicle. Rowland faces two misdemeanor charges for simple possession of marijuana and failure to stop at police command. Police found blood in his passenger seat and trunk matching Josephson’s and her cell phone was found in the passenger compartment. Liquid bleach, germicidal wipes, and window cleaner were also found in the vehicle. In response to Josephson’s tragic death, Uber says it is working with colleges across the United State to implement safety measures and is even partnering with the University of South Carolina to further heighten awareness. The University of South Carolina is also launching a campaign entitled “What’s My Name” aimed at getting every college student in America to take a pledge promising to never enter rideshares without first asking the driver, “What’s my name?” Junior Kendall Pollard says, “It is a known fact that Uber is sometimes dangerous. I have always been nervous riding in Ubers so I send my mom screenshots of the license plate and other information. I think Uber needs to be more aware that people are taking advantage of their services.” While Josephson’s devastating case peaked national attention, it is not the first of its kind. As early as 2015, Chicago Police warned people to keep an eye out for fake Uber drivers in the city. In 2017, Carla Westlund was sexually assaulted by a man pretending to be her Uber driver. In July 2018, a man posing as an Uber driver allegedly abducted a local woman named Elizabeth Suarez. Do these cases mean people should stop taking Uber? While many students recognize the risks that come with ridesharing, many feel incidents like this are rare and avoidable. Junior Lily Townsend responds saying, “It doesn’t make me so scared not to Uber again because it is so common but it definitely makes me more alert.” “I think that as a guy I don’t think much about getting in a car and my parents don’t really care for me but my sister isn’t really allowed to take Uber,” said Senior Ioannis Paranikas. Junior Allie Roehm said, “While I think Ubers have the potential to be dangerous, there are also easy steps us as riders can take to make it safer.” The best way to keep yourself safe while using ridesharing apps is to check the license plate, make and model of the car, and that the driver of the car matches the image on the app. Once the exterior matches, ask the driver both for your name and theirs. If you give away your name, all they have to do is say “yes.” Uber recommends solo passengers sit in the back for more exit options. They also suggest using the “share status” option on the app. However, this may not be enough as Josephson’s boyfriend saw she was going the wrong way but, being 2 hours away, could not help. If you do find yourself in a dangerous situation with an Uber driver, experts recommend calling 911. Even if it is just a one-sided conversation, they will still be able to figure out that a crime is happening. While safety is never guaranteed, it is vital we do our part to ensure our own wellbeing. ]]>