From NJ.COM - Feb 21, 2021
In the last Congress, Marci and Seymour Josephson saw the U.S. House pass without opposition legislation named for their late daughter, murdered after getting into a fake Uber car while at college.
But the Senate never took up the measure and it failed to become law.
Now Rep. Chris Smith, who counts the Josephsons as his constituents, is trying again. Smith has reintroduced what is known as “Sami’s Law,” requiring vehicles for ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft clearly be identified before a passenger gets in.
The new legislation would set up a digital access system to allow passengers to verify the ride-sharing car in advance.
“Lives are at stake and people, especially women, who use rideshare services are vulnerable to sexual assault and other crimes,” said Smith, R-4th Dist. “The Josephsons have made great progress educating ride share customers about potential dangers, but none of us will rest until the modest and effective Sami’s Law protocols are enacted and the public is better protected.”
Lyft said it took safety seriously.
“Safety is fundamental to Lyft, which is why we’re always investing in new features and policies to protect drivers and riders,” spokeswoman Ashley Adams said. “We will continue to work with safety experts as we seek to tackle complex issues and enhance safety across the transportation industry.”
Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Lyft more than doubled its lobbying to $2.2 million in 2020 from $930,000 in 2019, while Uber’s spending rose to $2.6 million from $2.4 million as both companies weighed in on the bill, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
In 2019, Samantha Josephson of Robbinsville, a senior at the University of South Carolina, got into a car she thought was her Uber. Instead, the driver kidnapped and murdered her, according to police. A person was arrested and charged with murder.
The Josephsons began lobbying Congress to prevent similar incidents from happening again.
“No family should have to endure what the Josephsons have,” said the bill’s chief Democratic sponsor, Rep. Tom Suozzi, D-N.Y. “We can’t stop every family tragedy, but hopefully Sami’s law will establish safety protocols that protect Uber, Lyft and other ride share customers.”
The bill also would create a Department of Transportation advisory council to make recommendations for ride share safety standards, make it illegal to sell ride-share signage, and require studies by the Government Accountability Office on incidents of assault by both passengers and drivers and on the background checks conducted by ride service companies.
Co-sponsors include House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., and Reps. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., Josh Gottheimer, D-5th Dist., and Albio Sires, D-8th Dist.