It’s Friday night and college students are stumbling out of bars and clubs in their college towns. Some may choose to walk while others turn to the apps Uber and Lyft to get home.
Ride-sharing apps send a signal to any available drivers registered through the apps in the area, and in a few short minutes, a driver will arrive to take a passenger to their desired location.
For 21-year-old University of South Carolina student Samantha Josephson, her ride home on the night of March 29 ended fatally.
Columbia Police reported that Josephson was last seen getting into a black Chevrolet Impala on the night of the 29th at about 2 a.m.
Authorities believe she thought the car was her Uber. She was later found in a wooded area by turkey hunters after being stabbed multiple times. The suspected driver of the vehicle, 24-year-old Nathaniel Rowland, was arrested on kidnapping and murder charges.
Her death is another incident involving rideshare scams and individuals posing as drivers to kidnap, assault and sometimes rob young women.
The New York Times reported there have been at least a dozen attacks in the last two years involving ridesharing apps.
While these attacks represent only a fraction of the millions of rides that now take place through apps like Uber and Lyft, it is important to understand that riders should always have their guard up.
Ridesharing apps currently share details like make and models of cars, license plate numbers and a name and picture of the driver.
These details are incredibly important when identifying where your rideshare car is and in cases where passengers can be extremely incapacitated, they can be details that are missed or not paid attention to.
In the instances where passengers have gotten into non-Uber and Lyft cars, it is due to predators targeting those they see as unaware and easy to convince.
In an April 4 article in the New York Times, reporter Jack Healy wrote: “the drivers troll nightclubs and bars late at night to find people scanning the dark for their ride, according to law enforcement descriptions of the assaults. They wave to passengers and say, “I’m your driver.” Some even hang rideshare decals in their windows.”
Taking this into consideration, passengers should be the ones to identify vehicles and once they have identified their car using the details provided through the app, they should ask the identifying question, “Are you my driver?”
Just because someone drives up and asks if you are waiting for a car, does not mean they are your driver.
As students with nightlife options in downtown Plattsburgh, we should take the death of Samantha Josephson into consideration when we choose Uber and Lyft to take us home from Five1Eight and RetroLive.
Young women seem more at risk than young men in these situations, so if you are leaving somewhere late at night, consider having a buddy or a group of people with you when you are in a car.
There is safety in numbers.
Uber and Lyft have radically changed the way we travel and it should be noted that not all drivers are dangerous or have ulterior motives when they pick you up.
Both companies are working to improve the security details of their apps and insure that riders are safe when getting home in the aftermath of Josephson’s death.