ST. CHARLES, Mo. – The slaying of a 21-year-old University of South Carolina student is prompting some St. Louis area ride-sharing drivers, passengers, and law enforcement to raise awareness about safety.
Austin Schultz of St. Charles uses the ride-sharing services Lyft and Uber every so often but said he makes sure he’s getting into the right car.
“They tell you exactly what vehicle to look for,” said Shultz Monday. “So, I mean, if you’re looking for a Nissan, obviously you don’t hop into a Ford.”
And Uber customer Paul Smith also makes sure he’s getting home safe.
“Looking for the license plate, like the vehicle description that they give you on the app,” said Smith. “That’s how I find my Ubers typically.”
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for Samantha Josephson.
Police in South Carolina said the college student climbed into 24-year-old Nathaniel Rowland’s car thinking he was her Uber driver. Her body was later found on a rural dirt road. Rowland was later arrested and charged with her murder.
Uber driver Heather Trotter she often encounters people who accidentally get into her car whenever she’s on duty.
“I’ve had a number of people getting in my car that were not the correct passenger because they just assumed I was their driver without verifying,” she said.
On their Facebook page Monday, the Maryland Heights Police Department highlighted the tragic incident pointing to the importance of staying alert when it comes to getting into the correct ride-sharing car.
“Have the driver say their name,” said spokesperson Erica Stough, “and the child safety locks, those are on all the doors which is what happened in this incident in South Carolina, the child locks were activated so (Josephson) couldn’t get out.”
The post also raised the question of whether drivers are required to at all times, display a proper decal or an illuminating sign which could make it easier for riders to identify the right vehicle. Stough said that varies from city to city. Trotter said that sometimes drivers just choose not to display signage.
“For possible robberies,” Trotter said, “or like from the taxi commission they do not like us.”
FOX 2 reached out to Uber and Lyft for a comment. Lyft did not respond to our request.
While Uber didn’t address the tragedy or our question about posted signage requirement, the company advises customers to check the license plate, driver photo, and name that matches what’s listed in the app before getting in the car. More safety tips can be found on the company’s website.