Sarah Grace Goolden
Uber and other app-based taxi services have become a very convenient part of our everyday lives. No longer do you have to worry about getting home after a night of drinking. Those without cars or bikes are no longer stranded. They can hop in a Lyft and go anywhere they want. Most of these companies tend to be cheaper than actual taxis which is great for people in the city. Overall, it seems like Uber should be perfect. Unfortunately, there are less regulations and this ends up making them less safe. This was tragically proven with the death of 21-year-old USC student Samantha Josephson.
Josephson was leaving a bar and had ordered an Uber. She saw a black Chevy Impala that matched her drivers car and got in. Her body was later found off a dirt road miles away with numerous wounds. Nathaniel David Rowland was not Josephson’s driver, and took advantage of her trust in the app. This terrifying incidence is sobering for anyone, especially college students, that enjoy these ride-sharing apps. Josephson did what many of us do all the time.
The concept of Uber is one that, when said plainly, sounds a little ridiculous. If your friend tells you “I’m too drunk to drive so I’m gonna get in a stranger’s car and pay him to take me home,” you would hopefully tell them thats crazy. If you switch “strangers car” to “Uber” or “Lyft,” no one bats an eye. I think we have gotten too comfortable. It is true that they are accessible and helpful and most of the time, nothing bad happens. I could not even tell you how many Ubers I have gotten into since starting college. However, we, as users, need to take individual caution.
One thing that eases a lot of peoples’ apprehension is the rating system. Users are able to rate and review drivers. If someone coming to pick you up has a five-star rating, you might be more comfortable riding with them. There is a minimum, and if drivers fall below it, their account may be deactivated. The profile provided is also a good way to stay safe. Riders should make sure they know the make and model of the car picking them up, yes, but also the name and picture of their driver. There are a lot of gray Honda Civics, but there is probably only one gray Honda Civic around with a woman named Laura with blonde hair. Before getting into your ride, it is suggested to have the driver say out loud who they are picking up. This guarantees that they are definitely yours or a crazy good guesser. If you just ask, “Are you Laura?” anyone can say “Yes.”
What are companies doing to prevent tragedies like this? Following safety concerns, Uber has implemented annual background checks on drivers and has ended forced arbitration for those who allege they have been sexually assaulted or harassed by drivers.
Uber does promise GPS tracking for drivers in case “something happens,” as they put so ominously on their website. This is a great feature, but it is retroactive. If an incident takes place, sure, it is documented, but it still happened. Preventative measures need to be taken to be effective.
Companies need more regulations to protect both drivers and riders, but until that happens, individuals must take care of themselves first. Caution should always be exercised before using Uber or any other app-based taxi.