“It has to be automatic, like putting on a seatbelt. You have to ask, ‘What’s my name?’”
Marci Josephson, whose daughter Samantha was found murdered hours after she got into a car that she mistook for her Uber
That hashtag has been gaining on Twitter, part of a safety campaign started by University of South Carolina students, who are grappling with the murder of a fellow student. They’re imploring riders of Uber and Lyft to ask their drivers, “What’s my name?” before getting into a vehicle.
The effort is in response to the death of Samantha Josephson, 21, who apparently got into a car she believed was her Uber in a busy downtown area of Columbia, S.C., late last month. Her body was found in the woods 70 miles away, and a 24-year-old man was quickly arrested on charges of kidnapping and murder.
On Monday, Josephson’s parents introduced the website Whatsmyname.org to “educate the world on ride-share safety and the simple precautions one can take to ensure no other family has to suffer this unspeakable tragedy.”
A week after the attack, three women who say they were raped by men posing as Uber drivers filed a lawsuit against the ride-hailing app, claiming that Uber knew fake drivers were targeting women but did not warn its customers.
Across the country, at least two dozen women have been attacked in recent years after making a mistake similar to Josephson’s. (In Connecticut, a man was recently arraigned on charges that he kidnapped and raped two women who thought he was their driver. In Chicago, prosecutors said a man who posed as an Uber driver sexually assaulted five women.) And a 2018 CNN report found that 103 Uber drivers and 18 Lyft drivers had been accused of sexual assault or abuse.
Uber and Lyft have been criticized for not sufficiently evaluating their drivers and not prioritizing passenger safety, prompting some cities to place temporary bans or restrictions on the services. Both companies say passenger safety is their top priority and have stood by their background-check processes.
After the attack on Josephson, Uber re-upped its public safety awareness campaign called “Check Your Ride,” first introduced in 2017, urging users to take certain precautions: Match the license plate, car make and model to what the app displays, and check the driver’s photograph before getting in.
Of course, as critics put it: The onus should not be on women to vigilantly create safe spaces for themselves — and yet often it is.
Here are a few safety tips I always abide by.
Ask the driver’s name.
In addition to asking the driver for your name, ask your driver for his or her name and look closely to make sure the photo on the app matches. If the driver’s phone is mounted on the dashboard, look to see if it’s displaying your name.
Share your status.
Share your trip details with friends through the sharing option on the app. By adding your destination and sharing through a text, others can watch your ride, in real time, on a map. Uber and Via monitor drivers’ routes, sending alerts to their staff if the cars go off course.
Match the light.
Some Uber and Lyft vehicles have illuminated windshield icons called Beacon and Amp that change color to match a hue on a passenger’s app. If this is available to you, make sure the color matches. Lawmakers in South Carolina have proposed a law, named for Samantha Josephson, that would require it in all such vehicles.
Americans have been having fewer babies in recent years, but the trend downward is far from new.
A front-page New York Times story exactly 45 years ago announced that U.S. birth and fertility rates had dropped to their lowest points in history — with 69.3 births for every 1,000 women.
In 2017, there were 60.3 births per 1,000 women, the lowest rate in over 30 years.
In the article, an expert posed questions that we still haven’t nailed down: How much of the decline represents decisions for smaller families and how much represents decisions by women to postpone having children?
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