New bill aims to improve Uber, Lyft safety in wake of college student's killing

Samantha Josephson, 21, was killed after mistaking a car for her Uber ride.

April 2, 2019, 4:21 PM

South Carolina lawmakers introduced a bill that would require illuminated signs in Ubers and Lyfts in response to the killing of University of South Carolina student Samantha Josephson, who police say was murdered after getting in a car she thought was her Uber.

"This could happen anywhere, and it really exposes the dangers of ride sharing," South Carolina State Rep. Seth Rose, a co-sponsor of the bill, told ABC News on Tuesday. "I live with my wife and three kids a fourth of a mile from the curb that Samantha was picked up from. ... I'm just very disturbed and bothered by it."

Samantha Josephson, 21, was alone when she requested an Uber ride early Friday morning, police said. After she got into a stranger's car, mistaking it for her Uber, the child safely locks were activated, preventing her from escaping, police said.

She died from multiple sharp force injuries, officials said, and her body was recovered in a wooded area.

The "Samantha L. Josephson Ridesharing Safety Act" would require ride-sharing vehicles to have an illuminated, company-provided sign with the company's "trademark or logo that is patently visible so as to be seen in darkness," according to the bill.

In larger cities, illuminated lights are mandatory. But that's not the case in Columbia, South Carolina, Rose said.

Samantha Josephson is pictured in this undated photo released by Columbia Police Department.
Columbia Police Department

The bill also requires that an Uber or Lyft employee who stops working as a driver must return the light to the company, Rose said.

"In the wake of this tragedy and examining the law, I realized that we need to do more," he said. "Having the light illuminated is a step in the right direction so we can decipher who is who."

"Her name is on the bill," he said of Josephson, "and that was in keeping with what I perceive to be her father's wishes. And I hope in this tragedy we can find some good."

The bill will go to the house floor on Wednesday for a vote, said Rose.

An Uber spokesperson told ABC News: "Since 2017, we’ve been working with local law enforcement and college campuses across the country to educate the public about how to avoid fake rideshare drivers. Everyone at Uber is devastated to hear about this unspeakable crime, and our hearts are with Samantha Josephson’s family and loved ones. We remain focused on raising public awareness about this incredibly important issue."

Josephson's suspected killer, Nathaniel Rowland, was arrested and charged with murder and kidnapping, said police. He didn't attend his first court appearance Sunday and is next due in court on April 22.