In the early morning hours of March 29, 2019, 21-year-old Samantha Josephson got into what she believed was her Uber vehicle, a black Chevy Impala driven by 24-year-old Nathaniel David Rowland.
The car was not her Uber vehicle. Nathaniel David Rowland was not an Uber driver.
Later that afternoon, hunters found Josephson’s body.
This incident was truly a horrific tragedy. It goes without saying Josephson in no way deserved what happened to her. Rowland, if convicted of this crime, deserves the death penalty. I’m not even a real big death penalty supporter. However, why have the death penalty if scum like Nathaniel David Rowland is spared the needle?
In response to this tragedy, some well-intended folks are encouraging people to ask drivers “What’s my name” before getting into a rideshare vehicle. If the driver cannot or will not tell the would-be passenger their name, the person should not get into the vehicle. It has even been turned into a Twitter hashtag, #WhatsMyName.
This is terrible advice.
Instead of asking a driver, “What’s my name”, anyone ordering an Uber or Lyft should do the following before getting into the vehicle:
- Verify the vehicle is the same color, make, and model of the vehicle shown in the app.
- Confirm the license plate number on the vehicle matches the license plate shown in the app.
- Verify the driver is the same person shown in the app.
- Ask the driver’s name and confirm it matches the name in the app.
#WhatsMyName is a dumb idea
The problem with #WhatsMyName is that it attempts to rob drivers of the only tool we have of ensuring the stranger wanting access to our vehicle is our passenger. Uber does not show drivers what a passenger looks like. Uber only provides a name. Lyft shows a photo of the passenger, but only if they uploaded one.
The safest way of knowing someone is your Uber or Lyft driver is verifying that the photo shown in the app matches the driver. Generally, verifying the vehicle’s color, make, model, and license plate number are good things to do. However, what if someone carjacks the Uber or Lyft driver’s vehicle? It happens.
Anyone possessing the driver’s vehicle and smartphone can pick up passengers and rob them. They will also know what a passenger’s name is.
Rideshare passengers will be safer and better served if they use the tools they already have at their disposal. Leave Twitter hashtags were they belong, on Twitter.