Bipartisan legislation named in honor of Samantha “Sami” Josephson—a Robbinsville native who was murdered earlier this year by a predator pretending to be her Uber driver—was taken up Wednesday by the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit hearing entitled “Examining the Future of Transportation Network Companies: Challenges and Opportunities.”
Sami’s Law, which would establish needed protections for ride-share customers across the country, is authored by Republican Rep. Chris Smith with lead Democratic cosponsor, Rep. Tom Suozzi. In the Senate prime sponsor Sen. Ben Cardin introduced a companion bill.
Sami’s Law will require enhanced vehicle identification procedures to create a safer environment for ride-share drivers and customers and to make it harder for those with ill intent to impersonate drivers.
“The idea for the legislation came directly from the grieving parents of a young woman brutally murdered by a fake Uber driver,” Smith said. “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. Almost immediately and notwithstanding their excruciating agony over the loss of their precious daughter, Sami’s parents—Seymour and Marci Josephson—began pushing for federal and state legislation to better ensure that no one else loses their life or gets assaulted by a rideshare driver or a predator who pretends to be.”
The legislation would require all ride-share vehicles to have a scannable QR code on both back passenger side windows that riders could scan on a smart device to verify their ride before entering a vehicle. The newly reintroduced Sami’s Law HR 4686 additionally provides a rider with the option to opt-out of using a QR code by instead using a four-digit personal authentication number to be verified before entering the vehicle. The personal number was an idea suggested by the National Federation of the Blind—which has endorsed the bill.
Sami’s Law also would mandate state issued front license plates for ride-share vehicles and illuminated windshield signs visible in the day and at night from a distance of 50 feet. To address reports of sexual assault, the bill also requires the GAO to conduct a study on the prevalence of assault and abuse perpetrated on riders by drivers of ride-hailing vehicles, and on drivers by ride-hailing passengers. The study will also assess the frequency and effectiveness of background checks conducted by ride-sharing companies on potential drivers and the state laws on background checks for drivers.
States that do not implement the legislation’s regulations will lose one percent of their federal highway funding—a provision that 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 Josephsons are also seeking to educate ride-share passengers on the best safety practices, using the acronym S-A-M-I (“Stop, Ask, Match, Inform”) to teach riders to be alert to their surroundings, ensure the car they are entering is the correct ride-share vehicle, ask the driver to identify them by name, and tell friends to track their ride.
In May and again in September, the Josephsons met with Members of Congress and staff, and Administration officials to advocate for laws and policies that would protect ride-share passengers from predators posing as drivers.