Police advice on Uber, Lyft safety


Madison Kuhfus/Iowa State Daily

Terry Aguilar, Uber driver in Ames, drove us around campus while telling about his second job. He told us many details about the Uber service and what it takes to work for the company.

Caitlin Yamada

Around 2 a.m. on March 29, friends of Samantha Josephson noticed she was missing after a night out at a bar scene close to campus.

Twelve hours later they reported Josephson missing and two hours after that, she was found dead.

Through security footage, the Columbia Police Department reported she was last seen getting into a black Chevy Impala shortly after 2 a.m.

Later, police reported the 21-year-old University of South Carolina student had mistaken this car as her Uber.

This death has prompted law enforcement agencies to intensify warning to students surrounding safety when using these rideshare services.

In Ames, the Iowa State University Police Department (ISUPD) and the Ames Police Department caution students to avoid getting into vehicles before verifying the vehicle and driver information and travel in pairs.

“If you are in Campustown area, we always want people to monitor how much alcohol they’re drinking,” said Jason Tuttle, an Ames Police commander. “If you are going to request a ride, stay inside the building you’re in.”

This prevents a potential perpetrator from seeing you linger outside waiting for the ride and taking advantage of that.

The main recommendation both agencies had is to verify the information provided through the app before entering the vehicle. Both Uber and Lyft provide the name of the driver, a vehicle make and model and a license plate number.

“A lot of people will say, you know their driver is supposed to be Stephanie, and so they get in the car and say ‘hey are you Stephanie’ and it’s really easy for a driver to say ‘yep,’” said Anthony Greiter, a crime prevention specialist with ISUPD.

Greiter gave the recommendation of asking the driver the wrong name, and if they confirm the name, you know there is a problem.

A different recommendation is to ask the driver who they are supposed to pick up before getting into the vehicle.

Once this information is verified, law enforcement recommends sitting in the back seat of the vehicle to put space between you and the driver.

Uber provides a list of safety tips on their website, which includes many of the tips given by law enforcement along with requesting your ride inside, sharing trip details with a friend and following your intuition.

“The biggest thing is being aware of your surroundings,” Tuttle said.

Greiter said if students do feel unsafe using these services, there are other late-night options offered in Ames such as taxi services, SafeRide, CyRide and the new Rave Guardian app. Rave Guardian allows users to have a “virtual guardian” as they walk home.

If individuals do feel unsafe, especially in the Campustown area, Tuttle said there are always one or two officers within the bar area of Welch Avenue.

“If you hear something or see something that makes you uncomfortable or suspicious, give law enforcement a call,” Greiter said.