Murphy signs Uber/Lyft safety law as slain woman’s family looks on
Gov. Phil Murphy on Thursday signed “Sami’s Law,” the ride-share measure named after Samantha Josephson, of Robbinsville, who was killed after she got into a vehicle she mistakenly thought was her Uber in South Carolina.
The law requires Uber, Lyft and all rideshare companies to issue two identifying markers to each of their drivers to be displayed on the front and rear windows of their vehicles.
It also mandates companies must create and provide every driver with two copies of a two-dimensional barcode, or another type of readable code that passengers are able to scan, to confirm the identity of the vehicle before they get into it.
The new law also requires rideshare 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.
Samantha’s father, Seymour Josephson, said he’s glad New Jersey has become the leader in rideshare safety but the occasion was bittersweet for him, his wife Marci and Sami’s sister, Sydney.
“I can tell you from the deepest part of my heart, I wish I wasn’t here," he said.
He said there has been some hesitancy from rideshare companies about the idea of creating a barcode system.
“It is mindboggling how anybody can put up any type of resistance for this," he said.
Josephson said some rideshare companies have voiced concerns about having a barcode scanning system on a vehicle that could not safely be accessed by people who are blind or have other disabilities.
“New Jersey is the leader, but we want this to be federal, and to have Uber, Lyft or any rideshare company push back, it infuriates me," he said. “We want to eliminate the ability for somebody to be raped. We don’t’ want this to ever happen again of somebody being murdered. Samantha had no chance, there was no signage, there was nothing. She got into a vehicle that was impersonating an Uber.”
When asked to respond to Josephson’s comments, Lyft spokesperson Campbell Matthews issued the following statement:
"Safety is fundamental to Lyft, and we never stop working to design policies and features that protect riders and drivers. We share New Jersey lawmakers’ commitment to safety and support this bill's flexible options to ensure a correct match between rider and driver. However, the most efficient and effective way to confirm your ride is to match the license plate number shown in the app with the license plate of the arriving vehicle."
The company has voiced concerns that a barcode requirement raises safety issues for riders when meeting their driver on a dark or busy street.
Lyft representatives have also pointed out they already provide license plate numbers in their app for riders to match with the vehicle that shows up, as well as a photo of the driver, details of the vehicle’s make, model and color and they have instituted a colored light system on the driver’s dash that allows the rider to identify their vehicle more easily.
The communications department of Uber was asked for comment, but they did not immediately respond on Thursday.
Josephson plans are underway to also create “Sami Spots,” which would be designated rideshare pickup and drop-off areas.
Sami’s law will take effect in nine months. Drivers who fail to comply with these provisions are subject to a $250 fine. Rideshare companies that fail to comply with the provisions of the law may have their permit to operate in the state of New Jersey suspended or revoked.
U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., has introduced Sami’s Law on the federal level. The legislation is co-sponsored by U.S. Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com