WASHINGTON, DC -- The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to create a national law to protect ride-share users from unscrupulous individuals or predators who use popular services such as Uber and Lyft to prey upon individuals.The proposed "Sami's Law" is named after Robbinsville's Samantha Josephson.
In March 2019, while attending college in South Carolina, Sami was brutally murdered, allegedly by an individual she mistook as a driver for a ride-sharing service.
The proposed national law is sponsored by Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-4) who has worked with Sami's parents, Seymour and Marci Josephson, since their daughter's tragic passing. Smith said that provisions of Sami’s Law would “require ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft to deploy a verifiable electronic access system to match drivers with passengers before the ride begins to enhance safety for the ride-hailing public."
Sami’s Law sets safety requirements for modern technology and a process for successor technology performance standards, including:
- ensuring that there is a way for a passenger to use a non-visual arrangement to verify the authenticity of the TNC driver,
- establishing a 15-member advisory council that reports to the Secretary of Transportation—SAMI’s Council—comprised of federal agency and public stakeholders to advance safety standards in the ride-share industry;
- making it unlawful to sell, or offer for sale, ride-share signage making it more difficult for imposters like Sami’s murderer to pose as a driver;
- requiring a GAO report on the incidence of assault and abuse of both passengers and drivers;
- requiring that the GAO also examine the nature and specifics of “background” checks conducted by companies and the varying standards set by States regarding background checks.
The measure received bi-partisan support from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and passed in a unanimous voice vote.
“Both Marci and I and Sydney are extremely happy and proud to work with Chris Smith, Speaker Pelosi and Leader McCarthy, Chairman DeFazio, Graves and Suozzi,” said Seymour Josephson, speaking for his wife and other daughter, Sydney.
"After the heartbreaking murder of their daughter Samantha, Seymour and Marci Josephson turned their agony into courageous action to promote ride-share safety and education and to prevent future tragedies. Passing Sami’s Law is a fitting tribute to her memory, and it is critical to ensuring that ride-share companies have protections in place for the safety and well-being of all their passengers," said Pelosi.
"While we cannot bring Sami back, here is the promise we make to her family and her loved ones: this Congress will take action to not only memorialize her life, but we will also implement changes needed to keep innocent people safer when they use ride share apps in the future. The passage of Sami’s Law will establish additional layers of security, including requiring digital methods to establish driver/rider identities before the ride starts, so that we can prevent these types of crimes from happening," said McCarthy.
The measure must now be considered by the United States Senate.
“It’s been a whirlwind of ups and downs. It’s bittersweet. It’s been emotional. We’d much rather have Samantha sitting with us here on the couch, but to create a law so nobody else gets hurt is a good thing. It’s a huge step to get it through the House. Now we need to get the Senate to act on it hopefully soon,” added Josephson.
Smith said “given the pain due to the unimaginable loss of their daughter—Seymour and Marci have been heroic, tenacious and extraordinarily persuasive. They have been a critically important part of the often-intense negotiations with multiple stakeholders including Uber and Lyft.’
The What's My Name Foundation was founded by the Josephson family "to educate the world on ride share safety, supporting charitable organizations and providing college scholarships to selected high school seniors." The Foundation remind ride-share users to ask drivers “What’s my name?” before entering the vehicle to ensure that it is the proper vehicle.
Know a story we should share with readers? Email editor Elizabeth Meyers and tell her about it.