WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.-04) have introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation named to honor Samantha Josephson—a senior at the University of South Carolina who was kidnapped and brutally murdered by a man pretending to be her Uber driver. Named Sami’s Law, the bill establishes needed protections for ride-share customers across the country, including mandatory enhanced vehicle identification procedures to create a safer environment for ride-share drivers and customers. It also will make it harder for those with ill intent from impersonating drivers. The legislation – S. 1871 and H.R. 3262 – is cosponsored in the House by Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.-03), Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).
“Congress has a responsibility to take reasonable action to protect public safety so that no other family has to endure the same tragedy as the Josephson family,” said Senator Cardin. “Ride sharing has become commonplace across the country today, making a nationwide response essential. No one should be left at risk.”
“Seymour and Marci Josephson are courageously working in their daughter’s, Sami’s, memory to protect ride-share passengers,” said Rep. Smith, who has partnered with the Josephson’s to promote safety. “Through their unspeakable pain, they are selflessly working for common-sense laws to boost passenger safety and crack down on predators posing as ride-share drivers. They have already made an enormous impact at home, as New Jersey has passed legislation that mirrors the federal version of Sami’s Law. But Sami’s murder underscores that we need federal legislation so that ride-share customers are equally protected in all 50 states.”
Under Sami’s Law, all ride-share vehicles would be required to have a scannable Quick Response, or QR bar code on both back-passenger side windows that riders could scan on a smart devise to verify their ride before entering a vehicle.
The bills also 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 don’t implement these regulations will lose 1 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.
In response to their daughter’s tragic death, 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 early May, 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.