Recently, University of South Carolina senior Samantha Josephson accidentally entered a car that she had mistaken as her Uber, a mistake that would truly be her last.
Josephson, 21, believed that driver, Nathan Rowland, was going to get her home safely that night. However, Rowland, 24, was charged with taking Josephson’s life and leaving her body in a wooded area approximately 60 miles away from the site of her abduction. Rowland was found not long after and was held on kidnapping and murder charges.
Josephson, though, had big plans for her life. Expected to graduate this May, she was set to attend law school at Drexel University in the fall. Now, her death has sparked a conversation on ride-sharing safety.
Following Josephson’s death, USC issued the #WhatsMyName Campaign, which encourages all individuals calling an Uber, Lyft or taxi to ask their driver to acknowledge the passenger’s name before entering. The expectation is that all ride-sharing drivers have access to their soon-to-be passenger’s name before arrival, therefore limiting potentially false driver identities.
“The number one thing is asking, ‘what’s my name’ any time you take an Uber,” said Larry Rickard, Lynn campus safety chief. “It is also important to verify that your driver does not have child locks on. Remember, it is okay to ask ‘could you take the child locks off please.’ You always need to be able to get out in case of an emergency.”
To address incidents similar to Josephson’s, schools and universities nationwide have enforced Uber safety precautions, implementing seminars and courses teaching students the dangers of traveling alone, intoxication and popular driving services around campuses.
“Trust your gut. If the hairs on the back of your neck start to stand up, trust those instincts,” said Rickard.
Seymour Josephson, Samantha’s father, continues to speaks out at to campuses about the importance of safety for young college students.
“What we learned is, you guys have to travel together,” said Josephson in a recent statement to the media. “If there’s two of you, something is less likely to happen. Samantha was by herself – she had absolutely no chance. None.”
In addition, Josephson urges individuals to share their ride details with a friend. The new “Share Status” feature allows riders to share their trip details, revealing the driver’s name, vehicle type, license plate and the ride’s ETA to a friend or family member.
“We also recommend changing the settings in your Uber app to manage trusted contacts. This reminds a trusted friend or family member that you are taking an Uber,” said Rickard.
If there is one thing to take away from the tragedy of Samantha Josephson, it is to always stick with a friend and to be aware of the surrounding areas. Next time an Uber arrives, remember #WhatsMyName before entering the vehicle.