A student-run GroupMe called “safe rides” provides female USC students with a safer rideshare experience by utilizing fellow college students for transportation.
The group chat, currently administered by fourth-year biology student Bailey Coleman, was originally started a few years ago by her sister, Emili Revis, after another, similar group chat that was shut down.
The group chat currently has 4,856 members as of Oct. 20 and has grown bigger than Coleman and Revis ever imagined. Coleman said much of the recent growth is from girls hearing about it from their peers.
“I know that a lot of sororities actually do represent it in their chapter meetings and things like that,” Coleman said.
The group chat gives college-aged women an option other than Uber or Lyft to get a ride, and the large number of members helps make finding a ride around Columbia easy.
Second-year cardiovascular technology student Jaianna Johns often drives others in the group chat. She said that having another college student driving feels more trusting.
The drivers of the group chat set their own rates for rides. However, rates are meant to be comparable to other rideshare services, Coleman said.
“Girls can basically charge their own rates, but I also try to keep an eye on if people are overcharging and not allow that,” Coleman said. “While at the same time, girls who are driving should be charging their worth and making money. So, I try to keep it as fair as possible.”
While this group chat feels like a safer alternative to many students, one should still practice caution, as they would with any rideshare service, Blake Gibbons, Student Government division secretary of Campus Wellness and a fourth-year geography and political science student, said.
SAMI — meaning Stop, Ask, Match, Inform — should be used with any rideshare service, including the “safe rides” GroupMe, according to Gibbons.
This acronym was started by the parents of Samantha Josephson, a USC student who was murdered in March 2019 after getting into what she believed was her Uber.
“That was a focusing event right there. When that happened, the world kind of stopped. The nation really took a viewpoint and said, ‘Hey, this needs to be addressed,’" Gibbons said.
Before entering a rideshare vehicle, always stop and review safety features and information, ask the driver “what’s my name?” and make sure they know it, match the license plate with what’s on the app, if applicable, and inform friends or family about your location — this can be done using services like the Rave Guardian app or Find My Friends.
“Even if it is current students (giving rides), it’s always important to still use SAMI as well,” Gibbons said.
With safe rideshare practices in place, Chisolm Jackson, Student Government deputy secretary of Transportation and Safety and a second-year history student, said that the GroupMe is beneficial.
However, Jackson also addressed that changes in rideshare service safety still need to be made.
“The GroupMe is a good solution, but it’s a temporary solution,” Jackson said. “It’s a symptom of the larger problem, which is the issue in rideshare safety.”
While greater changes are being made in rideshare services, such as being able to share your trip details and deeper driver background checks, Johns said that the “safe rides” GroupMe feels more comfortable than traditional rideshare services.
While the group chat may not be a flawless solution to rideshare issues, Coleman said that it provides students with an alternative they can feel safer using.
“Sometimes girls just don’t want to get an Uber. And if there’s a college girl that can drive them, and they can give them some money, then why not?” Coleman said.
The group chat is meant to be for USC women, however, there are a few men in the chat. Coleman keeps a close eye on the group chat to make sure nothing bad happens and makes sure that those who join are college-aged.
Along with monitoring those who join, Coleman also makes sure student conduct is not violated in the chat.
“I feel like (‘safe rides’ is) one of the group chats that does not tolerate any of the unnecessary stuff that does come about in group chats sometimes, such as selling football tickets or anything that could put you at risk as a student of getting in trouble,” Johns said.
The “safe rides” GroupMe can be joined by an access link or being added by an existing member.
“Anyone who hasn’t heard about it or would like to join should definitely join, is welcome to join,” Coleman said.