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Lyft riders will soon be able to dial 911 from the app

The ride-share service announced it's stepping up its safety measures following the death of University of South Carolina student, Samantha Josephson.
Credit: provided

SAN FRANCISCO — Lyft has announced it's stepping up its safety measures and introducing a panic button for riders.

The new initiatives, announced Tuesday, follows a demand for increased safety after the death of University of South Carolina student Samantha Josephson.

Josephson was kidnapped and killed in March after Columbia Police say she mistakenly got into a car thinking it was her Uber ride. Columbia Police arrested and charged 24-year-old Nathaniel David Rowland with murder in the case. 

"Our hearts our broken," Holbrook said. "There is nothing harder than to stand before a family and explain how their loved one was murdered."

RELATED: Samantha Josephson killing: what we now know about the USC student's death

One new Lyft safety initiative is an increased visibility of license plates in the app. Lyft has increased the size and prominence of this information for riders. 

Many riders have already seen this change, but it will continue rolling out to other customers in the next few months.

Credit: Lyft

Lyft also introduced rider emergency assistance. In the next few weeks, riders will have the ability to access 911 from the Lyft app.

Riders will also be required to provide feedback if they rate a driver less than 4-stars.

Credit: Lyft

When a customer rates a driver below 4-stars, sample feedback appears. Riders must choose one of these options or write their own comment.

Lyft says all feedback is anonymous and will be reviewed before anything is shared with the driver.

“Lyft is relentlessly focused on finding new ways to further strengthen safety measures on our platform,” said Mary Winfield, Lyft’s Head of Trust & Safety. “Today, we’re glad to continue building on our commitment to safety by making it easier to identify your Lyft ride, get help in an unsafe situation, and ensure everyone in our community is held to the same standards.”  

Last month, Lyft also announced continuous criminal monitoring and enhanced identity verification.

Following Josephson's death, South Carolina state lawmakers have debated a bill that aims to increase safety for Uber and Lyft customers. 

RELATED: University of South Carolina President urging students to ask 'What's my name?' when using rideshare apps

Lawmakers originally wanted to require lighted signs, but a senate subcommittee decided to scrap that requirement. Instead the bill now requires drivers to display their license tag numbers on a sign on the front of their vehicles.

RELATED: Lighted sign requirement removed from Samantha Josephson Uber safety bill

The Senate subcommittee also was forced to remove Josephson's name from the bill due to existing Senate rules.

Senator Thomas McElveen said the rule exists to to keep senators from having an emotional reaction for or against a bill due to a person's name on its title.

RELATED: 'Don't ever forget her name': Mother of slain USC student speaks for first time

Both Uber and Lyft urge riders to double-check all information about its drivers, including the driver's name, photo, vehicle and license plate before entering a vehicle.

RELATED: Uber, USC team up for new rideshare safety program

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