DALLAS — Rideshare safety is now a nationwide focal point following the tragic death of a student from the University of South Carolina, who was killed after she mistakenly got into the wrong car thinking it was an Uber.
Twenty-one-year-old Samantha Josephson had last been seen around 1 a.m. Friday after going out with friends to the Five Points area in Columbia, South Carolina. When Josephson couldn't be located, her friends reported her missing to police later that day.
Not long after making the report, Josephson's body was found by hunters in a rural area near New Zion. Police later arrested and charged 24-year-old Nathan Rowland with murder and kidnapping in connection to Josephson's death.
Surveillance footage around 2 a.m. Friday shows Josephson getting into Rowland's car near the area where she and her friends were hanging out.
According to investigators, Josephson ordered an Uber but got into Rowland's car by mistake.
Now, state lawmakers in South Carolina are debating how to make rideshare experiences safer.
One lawmaker even plans to file a bill on Tuesday that would make rideshare drivers for companies like Uber or Lyft have illuminated displays. Right now in the state, it's required for those drivers to have stickers, but not have them illuminated.
In Texas, however, it's not required for rideshare drivers to display a placard or a sticker (even though many do).
But, drivers are required to share their information and vehicle information with customers when they order a ride.
Three things that will keep you safe:
- Check the make, model, and license plate of your ride when it arrives.
- Look at the driver and the driver's photo in your app.
- Ask, "What's my name?"
Each of those things will ensure at the very least that you will get in the right car.
Most drivers already spot customers and verify who they are and where they're going before they even open the door.
Below are other safety tips that Uber has on its website.
"Plan ahead. Before you request a ride, think about where you’re headed and review the safety features in the app so you know how to use them.
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.
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.
Buckle up. The Centers for Disease Control reports that seatbelt use is the most effective way to save lives and reduce injuries related to car accidents.
Share your trip details with a friend. While en route, tap “Share status” in the app to share your driver’s name, photo, license plate, and location with a friend or family member. They can track your trip and see your ETA without downloading the Uber app.
Protect your personal information. There’s no need to share your phone number or other contact information with your driver. If a rider and driver need to contact each other, the Uber app automatically anonymizes both phone numbers to protect everyone’s privacy.
Follow your intuition. Trust your instincts and use your best judgment when riding with Uber. And if you ever feel you’re in an emergency situation, call 911 immediately.
Be kind and respectful. As outlined in our community guidelines, please respect your driver and his or her car.
Give feedback on your trip. Your feedback helps us improve the Uber experience for everyone. Our 24/7 global support team reviews feedback and will follow up with appropriate action on any reports of conduct that violate our community guidelines."