After homicide, NJ’s ride-share safety bill closer to becoming national law
Sami’s Law — a bill named after a Robbinsville student police say was killed by a man she mistook for her Uber driver — could nationalize protections that ride-share users in New Jersey already have under state law.
Columbia, South Carolina police said Samantha Josephson got into a black Chevrolet Impala on March 29 after leaving the Bird Dog bar in the city's Five Points area. The body of the USC senior was found several hours later off a country road 65 miles away in New Zion, South Carolina.
Samantha's death prompted her parents, Seymour and Marci Josephson, to become advocates for laws that would require ride share drivers to better identify themselves. Gov. Phil Murphy signed such a measure into law in June that requires Uber, Lyft and all ride-share companies to issue two identifying markers to each of their drivers to be displayed on the front and rear windows.
It also mandates that companies must provide every driver with two copies of a two-dimensional barcode, or another type of readable code that passengers are able to scan in order to confirm the identity of the vehicle before they get into it.
The law also requires ride-share companies to provide two credential placards to be displayed on the driver and passenger side rear windows that show the driver’s name, photo and the license plate number.
U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J. 4th District, who represents Robbinsville, is co-sponsoring legislation that would create a similar federal law dubbed "Sami's Law," which was formally introduced to the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit on Wednesday.
“The idea for the legislation came directly from the grieving parents of a young woman brutally murdered by a fake Uber driver. Now we know there are significant personal safety concerns associated with actual Uber and Lyft drivers as well—not just the fakes—that are not well appreciated or publicized,” Smith��said during a committee hearing on Wednesday.
"Working with the Josephsons, we’ve crafted a bipartisan bill that would push states to require front license plates and scannable codes—such as QR codes—on both back-passenger side windows that riders could scan on a smart device to verify their ride before—I say again before—entering a vehicle," Smith said.
U.S. Rep. Suozzi, D-N.Y., a co-sponsor of the bill, told the subcommittee he was disappointed that Uber and Lyft turned down invitations to testify.
"It is shocking that Uber and Lyft have not taken this seriously and refused to attend today’s hearing. We need common sense bipartisan solutions to these safety and other issues hitting this new industry,” Suozzi said.
Smith's bill would penalize states that do not implement the legislation’s regulations by cutting 1% of their federal highway funding, a provision Smith said is similar to the federal incentive used to motivate states to raise the drinking age to 21 and to prohibit open alcohol beverage containers in motor vehicles.
The bill remains in committee for further discussion.
Samantha suffered "numerous wounds" to her head, neck, face, upper body, leg and foot, according to a warrant for the arrest of Nathaniel David Rowland. He is charged with kidnapping and murder.
Police have not said what was used to cause the wounds but The Clarendon County Coroner said the cause of death was “multiple sharp force injuries."
Rowland is still incarcerated at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center in South Carolina awaiting trial, according to Kelly Melron, a spokeswoman for Columbia police.
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