They thought he was an Uber driver. But when he drove them down a dirt road, they called 911

Posted at 3:41 PM, Jun 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-24 21:02:22-04

Police in Hilton Head, South Carolina, say two women were lucky to escape unharmed after they fled a purported Uber driver who drove them down a dirt road and grabbed their phone when they threatened to call 911.

The women, who weren’t named, told the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office that they ordered an Uber outside a Hilton Head restaurant early Friday and were met by a man driving a dark SUV.

The women knew that the man was not their Uber driver, but they thought they saw an Uber sign on his windshield, so they got in.

The passengers, one in the front seat and one in the back, gave the driver the location of their vacation home on the south end of the island. They didn’t notice that he was driving north until they ended up on an unfamiliar dirt road and felt that something was wrong.

The front-seat passenger said she told the driver that she was calling 911, and he grabbed the phone from her hand and stopped the SUV.

All three got out, and the man approached the passengers. The woman grabbed her phone back and dialed 911. The man jumped back into his vehicle and sped away. Police arrived minutes later.

Police haven’t located or identified the driver. They don’t know whether he was a legitimate Uber driver or a driver from a similar transportation company.

Uber representative Grant Klinzman questioned what the story had to do with the company and cited astory from April about push notifications employed to combat fake drivers — an ongoing issue.

This spring, less than a month after the death of a South Carolina college studentwho got into a vehicle that she thought was her Uber, the state House passed a bill that will require ride-share vehicles in the state to display illuminated signs so passengers can easily recognize their drivers’ cars.

The Senate approved it one month later, with the added provision that drivers must also display their license plate numbers in the front of their vehicles, and those who misrepresent themselves as ride-share drivers will be fined or imprisoned. It was signed into law in May and went into effect in June.

Also in June, US Rep. Christopher Smith of New Jersey introduced “Sami’s Law” — named for the South Carolina college student, Samantha Josephson — which would set nationwide regulations for ride-share drivers, requiring illuminated signs on their windshields, front and rear license plates and scannable QR codes on passenger windows.