Uber announces a new initiative to promote rideshare safety for students

Uber's new safety initiative is part of a multi-year partnership announced last spring. (Julia Lerner/The Diamondback)

By Julia Rosier
For The Diamondback

As part of a new initiative, rideshare app Uber announced it is collaborating with campus safety organizations to help educate students on rideshare safety.

The initiative is part of a multi-year partnership announced last spring with the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators.

This year, Uber is teaming up with the National Crime Prevention Council and Young Minds Inspired to support campus safety initiatives, according to an Aug. 14 press release.

“Throughout the school year, we will be providing safety-focused materials that will be distributed to more than 4,000 campus safety leaders across the US and Canada,” Andrew Macdonald, senior vice president for Uber’s global operations, wrote in the release.

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The announcement comes just months after the death of Samantha Josephson, a 21-year-old University of South Carolina student who was stabbed to death in March after mistaking her killer’s car for her Uber.

In August, an Uber driver and a passenger were shot and killed in Prince George’s County by a second passenger who admitted to being high on PCP.

The company also announced an in-app safety banner feature that updates the Arriving Now card, a reminder to verify the information of the driver, vehicle and license plate. The feature will show the car and license plate as the vehicle nears the pick-up spot, according to the press release.

Andrew Schornstein, a sophomore psychology major, said he uses Uber about once a week and always asks the driver for their name and who they are picking up before he gets into the vehicle. He said he welcomes any additional safety precautions.

“There are safety precautions on basically everything these days,” he said. “Something we are taught when we are children is never get in a car with a stranger. As of now, there is limited safety precautions using Uber and societal acceptance of accepting rides from strangers is the highest it’s ever been.”

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Sydney Wallace said when she gets into an Uber, she “kind of just trusts that it’s credible and safe.” Wallace said that she has heard “horror stories” about the rideshare service, though, so she asks who the Uber is for or the driver’s name.

“I think Uber does a fine job of being safe itself, but maybe that’s just because I never had a problem with it,” said Wallace, a sophomore public health science major.

University Police Deputy Chief David Lloyd said that the best thing people can do is ride with someone else and verify the information.

“If somebody is intoxicated, not aware, not paying attention, distracted, having a conversation with somebody else, FaceTiming somebody, they’re not going through some of these protocols,” Lloyd said. “They open up gaps in their security. You have to do your research and be safe.”

Uber passengers are not alone in taking safety precautions.

Aisha Voone, an Uber driver and trainer, said that sometimes she doesn’t know exactly who she is picking up when there’s a large group of people.

“I think it’s a good idea but I also think that there’s more things that need to be changed,” said Voon, who has driven for Uber since January. “I’ve never had any personal problems with safety issues or anything like that.”

Voone said that she thinks that having a profile picture for the rider would be helpful for drivers to see who they are picking up.

“I think [the rider profile image] will make it safer because then that would give the rider a peace of mind also the driver as well and that way I know for a fact who I have in my vehicle,” Voone said.

Junior economics major Yumna Rashid said she rides in Ubers about two to three times per month and that she “typically feels safe.” Rashid said she will usually text a friend that she is traveling in an Uber.

“A lot of people and myself included sometimes take Uber late at night,” Rashid said. “So it can feel a little sketchy so adding other precautions would be good.”

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