Uber sexual assault: "It could've been me"

This is not the first time the Uber driver accused of sexual assault picked up a U of I student -- another student said she is lucky it did not happen to her. (WCCU)

Uber is the talk of the town after police said they are investigating a University of Illinois student reported being sexually assaulted by her Uber driver.

It happened at 1:20 Wednesday morning in the 1200 block of W. Nevada Street in Urbana. Police described the driver as a black male in his 20s with a short, full beard, driving a Ford Focus with the license plate ‘BA6 27-41’. This is not the first time that driver has picked up a U of I student -- another student said she is lucky it did not happen to her.

“It listed the license plate number, so I immediately went to the Uber app and saw that it was the same person,” U of I student, Carolina said who did not want to reveal her last name.

After seeing the exact same license plate, Carolina learned that same driver dropped her off on campus just a day before the assault occurred.

“Immediately I called the police and told them what I had experienced just to give them more information about the person,” Carolina said.

She said she tried to recall the interaction she had with the driver when she entered his car with her friend.

“He was very inquisitive and he was just asking a lot of questions like, 'Oh how old are you guys? What year are you?'" Carolina said.

According to Carolina’s app, the driver has been working with Uber for about a month.

“My friend was sitting right next to him in the passenger seat and I noticed he was looking at her weird a lot, not focusing,” Carolina said.

According to the police report, Carolina said the driver dropped her off at the same location where the sexual assault happened.

“I even felt like a little weird after getting out of the car ride. Like, why was he asking so many questions?,” Carolina said.

Though she is thankful she left the car safely, she said she cannot stop thinking about the victim because she knows it could have been her.

“I feel a little guilty because it was the same spot the day before this happened,” Carolina said.

Police said the Uber driver completed the trip after he sexually assaulted the student. Officers could not say anything more about the driver except that they have the driver’s information, he was removed from the Uber app and they are investigating.

Police also said anytime you get into a car with a stranger, it comes with risks, but there are ways to ensure your safety:

  • If you are uncomfortable with an Uber driver try to avoid the situation by asking to be dropped off and wait for the next ride.
  • Stay in groups and in well-lit areas and report anything suspicious to police.
  • Students can also use SafeRides and SafeWalks on campus.

Fox Champaign reached out to Uber who said all drivers must go through license screening and background checks.

“This is deeply upsetting,” spokesperson from Uber Media Relations, Kayla Whaling said about the U of I sexual assault report. “The driver's access to the app has been removed and we are working closely with police to support their investigation.”

Uber also wants the public to know they have rolled out safety features, including an in-app emergency button. To learn more, click here.

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