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Uber safety: A forgotten concept among the app users

By Ana Carolina Mejia

When Uber first came out, my parents were terrified at the thought of me using it. They were skeptical because it was a new and different concept, especially for a small country like Panama. our years later, the only method of transportation they fully trust for me to use is Uber.

When the news of Samantha Josephson’s Uber related death broke, it brought back all the feelings of fear. Even though Uber really had no part in it, safety concerns of the ridesharing service were raised.

The news of Josephson hit close to home because Sami and I studied abroad together in Barcelona in the spring of 2018. I first met her on a trip my program took to Seville. Even though we each had our different groups of friends, our program only had 40 people so everyone knew each other. When tragedies like this happen, they impact everyone, but when you personally know the victim – it is a whole different story.

The reason why this story made headlines in almost every newspaper in the United States and even in different countries, is that we can all relate to it. We all use Uber. My first thought was “that could’ve been me.” It should not be like this, but young women are at risk at all times.

Getting into the wrong car is a human mistake. As a person who has gotten into the wrong Uber, in plain daylight, I can attest to this. Contrary to the opinion of others, this was not the victim’s fault. The only person at fault is the one who did this to Sami.

Women should not need to take extra precautions or expect that their ridesharing car ride is going to be life-threatening. Nevertheless, it is not a perfect world and this serves as a wakeup call to be extra careful and take safety precautions when using ridesharing services.

A campaign called #WhatsMyName was started at the University of South Carolina by the university’s president, Harris Pastides, and Samantha’s friends and family. It is a simple question, but it can save your life. Uber is partnering with USC to raise awareness about safety on college campuses.

There are many things we can do to keep us safe. For starters, ask who the ride is for. You should always check the car;is it the right model, color, etc.? Does the license plate match the one in the app? Uber recommends sitting in the backseat of the car to allow both the driver and yourself to have personal space.

You can also buddy up. It is always better to travel with a friend. f you go to the party together try to leave together as well. Check on your friends to see how they made it home, especially those who live alone.

Sadly, while Josephson’s  story is the definitive “worst-case scenario,” there are other ridesharing cases involving  safety violations such as sexual abuse. Uber needs to do their part in vetting drivers and upping their safety features, while riders should be more careful and raise awareness.

There may never be a time when we feel completely safe, but we can always be active bystanders and advocate for our own and that of others safety. As USC’s President and Josephson’s father have said, before you get into your ridesharing vehicle please ask, “What’s my name?” and remember hers.

Ana Carolina Mejia can be reached at ana.mejia@spartans.ut.edu

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