Is Uber the Enemy?

Grace Manning ’21

Opinions Editor

Forwarded the article through Facebook by a concerned aunt, I was urged to read about Samantha Josephson, a senior at the University of South Carolina who was brutally killed by a man Josephson mistook as her Uber driver. This seemingly random crime of opportunity is often the kind that scares us the most as a generation who relies heavily on being able to order Ubers and trust that the person driving us back to our college campus is who he or she says they are. But are we right to stop using apps like Uber or Lyft because of a terrible tragedy like that of Josephson? Our parents, grandparents and other relatives would think yes. They have gone far longer than us without the convenience of cell phones which can be used to get a ride home almost instantaneously. My parents would be counted among those who find the anonymity and unpredictability of Uber frightening and suspicious. They would be the first to argue that the lack of screening and training Uber drivers have relative to taxi drivers is cause enough to never take an Uber again. While they may be justified in their argument, I don’t believe that the eradication of Uber is the answer.

        Firstly, college students today want everything to happen fast and want everything to be as easy as possible so as to require minimal unnecessary changing of plans. It’s not realistic in our current society, to revert students back to calling or hailing specific taxi companies. Especially not when one is in a rush to get somewhere or even more likely, when one is intoxicated. Isn’t it better that a student thinks to call an Uber than decides to get behind the wheel after a night spent drinking? An argument of my parents would be that because of Uber, taking a taxi is more dangerous than it has ever been. But in reality, apart from a few horrible instances of violence against passengers, some would argue that college students are far safer than they were before Uber existed. Without Uber, if a student didn’t remember the number of a cab company or didn’t see any taxis in the area, they would be much more likely to decide to risk driving themselves home. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 60 percent of traffic fatalities in 1970 were because of alcohol. Today, that percentage has been cut nearly in half with 37 percent of traffic fatalities as a result of alcohol. There have been huge reductions in instances of drunk driving and I can’t help but believe that this has something to do with the invention of apps like Uber.

        While I don’t support everything about Uber, nor do I think it is 100 percent safe, I do think that in the long run, it saves more lives than it takes. The problem can be, such as was the case with Josephson, that we have become so comfortable hopping into an unfamiliar car with a driver we have never met before and know nothing about, that we can be too quick to assume such a strange car is our ride. This allows for more crimes of opportunity; when the perpetrator sees a young person standing alone looking at their phone late at night, they would probably be right in guessing that they are waiting for an Uber. I think what crimes like this recent one call for is a change in the way we Uber. Instead of assuming every car slowly pulling up alongside us is our Uber driver, we need to start assuming that it isn’t. We should try and think like our grandparents or parents who don’t often take Ubers and stay somewhat suspicious of what car we are getting into, no matter how comfortable we may think we are with taking Ubers.

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