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Student's death a reminder about ride-sharing risks

Uber Traffic Analysis
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Uber driver Karim Amrani sits in his car near the San Francisco International Airport parking area.

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Monday, April 8, 2019

One of the first things we teach our children is to never, ever get into a stranger’s car.

In the age of Uber and Lyft, we all need to relearn that lesson. Along with: The later you’re out at night, the greater your chances of running into the wrong person. And: It’s always safer to travel in groups.

Nothing can ever mitigate the heartbreaking tragedy of the killing of University of South Carolina student Samantha Josephson, who was abducted and slain after she got into what she mistakenly thought was an Uber ride-share she had ordered. But maybe it can be some small comfort to her family if her death leads more young people to follow the advice of Ms. Josephson’s father, Seymour Josephson, who urged students to stay in groups at night and called on ride-sharing services to do more to make sure passengers get into the right cars.

It’s never been safe to be out in bar districts in the wee hours of the morning, and certainly not to leave your friends and strike out on your own. But the ubiquity of ride-sharing services — which many of us inexplicably consider safer than the more heavily regulated and more easily identifiable taxi services — has caused many people to let down their guard. Not only do we wander out alone, sometimes after consuming too much alcohol to drive safely, but we don’t follow basic safety precautions when we think we spot our ride.

The Post and Courier talked to a former bar owner who recounted three instances of young women trying to get into his car on a recent night when he was serving as designated driver for a group of friends in Columbia’s Five Points, the bar district from which Ms. Josephson was abducted. Indeed, Mr. Josephson said that his daughter had tried to hop into another vehicle she thought was her ride before she got into the car that drove her to her death.

While lawmakers, regulators and the ride-share services consider what additional measures are needed, there are several precautions everyone who uses the services can and should take to protect their own safety. On Monday, the state’s Office of Regulatory Staff offered these tips:

■ Make sure the vehicle displays the ride-sharing company’s symbol in the front passenger side windshield.

■ Check the make, model and license plate number against the information provided by the ride-sharing service.

■ Ask the driver’s name to make sure it matches the name provided to you. Quiz the driver to make sure he or she knows where you’re going.

■ When you book a ride, send a friend a screenshot of the app that includes the driver’s name, make and model, and let the friend know when you arrive safely at your destination.

Perhaps most importantly, if you don’t feel safe, walk away. Don’t worry about being charged for canceling a ride; ride-sharing services usually will refund the money if you don’t feel safe.

And even if they don’t, the money isn’t worth your life. How much do you think Samantha Josephson’s family would give for her to have never gotten into that car?

The Post and Courier of Charleston, South Carolina

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Humans of Greenville

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