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House OKs requiring ride-share companies to add security measures

The Uber app on an iPhone near a

The Uber app on an iPhone near a driver's vehicle on Jan. 24. Credit: AP/Darryl Dyck

Ride-sharing app companies such as Uber and Lyft would be required to add security measures to verify the identities of drivers and passengers before each trip under a bill unanimously approved Wednesday in the House. 

Sami's Law, named after Samantha “Sami” Josephson, a University of South Carolina senior murdered in 2019 by a man impersonating her Uber driver, is among several federal measures aimed at stepping up safety in a relatively new industry previously regulated by local municipalities, said Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), a lead co-sponsor along with Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.).

“Because of the pandemic, people are worried enough about their safety and taking the necessary precautions. They are relying on Uber and Lyft more than ever because they aren’t taking public transportation,” Suozzi said. “This is a new industry that has exploded but it has not been regulated yet. We have to put in to place these common sense, reasonable safety provisions so that people feel comfortable before they get into a car.”

The legislation also creates a national advisory council composed of representatives from federal agencies, law enforcement and disability advocates. It prohibits the sale of counterfeit Uber and Lyft signs and logos. Fines between $5,000 and $20,000 would be imposed on ride-hailing companies failing to deploy the personal identification code to verify the driver and passenger before each ride. 

“The tragic death of Samantha Josephson left the ride-share community heartbroken and devastated," Uber spokesperson Danielle Burr said in a statement. " … ‘Sami’s Law’ is another step in the ongoing work to help improve safety on ride-share by leveraging education and technology."

Sami's parents, Marci and Seymour Josephson, who have advocated for the bill for more than a year, said passage in the House was "bittersweet." 

“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,” they said in a statement. 

A companion bill has been introduced in the Senate. 

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