woman hailing an uber in Columbia, SC

The abduction and murder of a USC student in Columbia raises awareness of the importance of taking safety precautions when using ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft.

Joye Law Firm, like others across Columbia and the nation, offers heartfelt condolences to the family of Samantha Josephson.

Unfortunately, Samantha is not the first to be preyed upon by fake Uber or Lyft drivers. An NBC News report for the Today show cites attacks in 10 states. We hope that the tips below about rideshare safety can help others avoid harm.

How to Safely Identify Uber Drivers and Rideshares

1. It is best to summon a rideshare driver from inside a private residence or a business and to stay inside until the car arrives. The app will tell you that your ride has arrived.

2. The app used to summon an Uber or Lyft provides information about who will come to pick you up, including:

  • The driver’s name and photo
  • Car model
  • License plate number.

When a rideshare car arrives, check the car model and license plate number, and compare them with information on the app before getting in the vehicle.

3. In South Carolina, Uber and Lyft drivers are required to identify their vehicles with reflective stickers on their windshields. Make sure some kind of sign is present, but do not rely on it alone. The most prevalent Uber driver fraud is to put a sign on a car and expect that a victim will not check information provided by the app. It’s important to look at the license plate number.

4. If the vehicle checks out, before getting into the car, make sure the driver looks like the photo on the app and ask the driver who they have come to pick up. Don’t say your name. Make sure the driver states your name without you or anyone else saying it first.

If anything is different from what is provided by the app or if the driver acts annoyed by anything that you ask or do to confirm the ride, then don’t get into the car.

5. Once in the backseat, text a friend to say that you are in an Uber or Lyft, where you are going, and the driver’s name and license plate number.

With Uber, you can tap “Share status” in the app to share your driver’s name, photo, license plate, and location. The recipient can track your trip and see your ETA without downloading the Uber app. The Lyft app has a similar feature.

Buckle your seatbelt and shoulder harness. You’re still more likely to be injured in a car accident than you are to be intentionally harmed by a fake Uber or Lyft driver.

6. During the ride, do not share personal information with the driver, such as your phone number or other contact information. If a rider and driver need to contact each other, the Uber app automatically anonymizes both phone numbers.

Uber also provides an in-app emergency button to call 911 to get help if you need it. The app displays your location and trip details, so you can quickly share them with the 911 dispatcher.

Additional Rideshare Safety Measures in South Carolina

Soon after Samantha Josephson’s death, a South Carolina legislator filed a bill that would require illuminated stickers on the windshields of Uber, Lyft and other rideshare vehicles to identify them more clearly. Currently, under S.C. law, rideshare identification stickers may be illuminated or simply reflective, which is less expensive.

The bill has bipartisan support, according to The State newspaper in Columbia.

Lyft and Uber have illuminated signs, the Amp and the Beacon, respectively, which can be set to project the color the rider chooses through the app — to identify the vehicle. However, each sign is available to a limited number of drivers.

The illuminated sticker legislation, filed by Rep. Seth Rose, a Columbia Democrat, is the first of what are likely to be several responses to Samantha’s death. The University of South Carolina has offered extended counseling hours and rideshare safety tips to students, which will likely become a routine part of student orientation each semester.

USC President Harris Pastides told NBC News that the University of South Carolina is launching the What’s My Name? campaign to raise awareness of the need to have rideshare drivers identify themselves. Samantha Josephson mistakenly got into a car outside a Five Points bar, believing it was an Uber she had ordered, police have said.

“We want every college student in America to take a pledge that says they will never get into a rideshare without first asking the driver, ‘What’s my name,’ to make sure that they are getting in the right vehicle,” Pastides said.

Remain alert that the vehicle and driver match the information in the rideshare app and ask the driver the name of the passenger he or she is picking up. What’s my name? Asking the rideshare driver that simple question is a way to protect yourself before getting in a rideshare vehicle.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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