On the street outside of a bar in Columbia, South Carolina on Friday, March 29, 21 year old University of South Carolina senior Samantha Josephson got into a black Chevy Impala that she mistook for the Uber ride she had summoned. The following day, hunters came across her body in a field 90 miles away from Columbia.
Josephson had been separated from her roommates, so she was traveling alone. Security footage of the street that night shows Josephson getting into the vehicle as soon as it drove up to the curb without taking a moment to match the license plate or driver to those specified by the app on her phone.
Following this recent tragedy, the Department of Public Safety wishes to share important safety tips with Fairfield University students in the hopes to prevent possible incidents before they have the chance to occur. Todd Pelazza, head of DPS, wants students to know a handful of crucial Uber safety tips. “These are things that can be quickly done,” said Pelazza. Before you get into a vehicle, take a moment to do the following:
- Ask the driver for your name. If the driver cannot identify you, don’t get in the car.
- Make sure that the photo of the driver on the app matches the driver’s appearance.
- Make sure the license plate on the car matches the one on app. It also gives a description of the make and model of the car, but Pelazza stressed that the license plate is the most important thing to check. There could be hundreds of thousands of cars with the same make and model on the road.
- Never get into a car when the driver says they’re an Uber unless you’ve ordered it. “We see people, you know, sometimes people will steal rides, that type of thing,” elaborated Pelazza. “You’re really taking a risk when you do that. It may be another minute or two wait [for an Uber that you order yourself], but it’s safer to do it that way, than just assume, ‘hey, it looks like an Uber driver, I’m gonna jump in the car.’”
- Provide your exact location for pickup, not just the University’s address.
- Check the driver’s ratings.
- Always report any suspicious activity to DPS or local police.
- And, if at all possible, don’t ride alone. “We encourage always to use the buddy system. So, at least one other person with you in the ride.”
In the event that you are in an Uber, or at least a vehicle that you believe is your Uber, and you start to feel that something is off or suspicious, Pelazza urges you to ask the driver to stop immediately and get out of the car. “If they don’t do that, start calling 911. If you dial 911, they’re gonna be able to track you where you are, and that’s the best approach to take.”
“Ask the driver to stop if something doesn’t feel right. And we always say, trust the hairs on the back of your head and your gut. If something doesn’t seem right, so what? Get out of that car. You can always get another Uber.”