Columbia, SC - The parents of a slain University of South Carolina student and the mayor of Columbia are calling for changes in security to ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft.
The suggestions are coming following the killing last month of 21-year-old Samantha Josephson, a senior at the school. Josephson was hanging out with friends in Columbia's Five Points when she mistakenly got into a car she thought was her Uber ride. The person at the wheel was not an Uber driver at all; instead, police say it was 24-year-old Nathaniel Rowland.
Rowland is accused of kidnapping and killing Josephson, then dumping her body in a remote area of Clarendon County, SC.
While the alleged killer did not work for Uber, some have called for added security measures for ridesharing services to make it easier for riders to spot their proper vehicles. Earlier this month, the South Carolina House of Representatives passed the Samantha Josephson Safety Act, which would require ridesharing vehicles to have an illuminated logo while on duty.
The measure now heads to the Senate for consideration.
Samantha's father, Seymour Josephson, has acknowledged his daughter made a mistake on that night. Since her death, he's been encouraging college students to check the licence plate of their Uber to make sure it matches what's in the app, and to ask the driver "what's my name?" before getting in.
But Seymour and Samantha's mother, Marci, also want ride-sharing vehicles to have license plates on the front, and to require ride-sharing vehicles to have QR or bar codes on the windows of vehicles so riders can scan the code on their phones to verify if that is their ride.
Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin wants to go a few steps further. He said he'll ask the city to consider a few other requirements, among which are the following:
- All rideshare vehicles should be inspected for safety by the City of Columbia.
- A decal for the window to prove the vehicle is deemed safe and registered with the City should be required. Vehicles may be subject to random inspection.
- Registering and potentially fingerprinting all rideshare drivers who operate in the City.
- All rideshare vehicles must use a designated pick-up point if within 150 feet of that pick-up point.
- No rideshare vehicle may operate with child safety locks engaged unless a child is present and with parental consent.
- No individual may operate a rideshare vehicle while on bond for domestic violence or any crime that carries a maximum penalty of >1 year.
- The City will appoint a representative from the City of Columbia geographic information system (GIS) to work with rideshare companies to explore creative technological solutions for safer pick-up locations in the city's entertainment districts alongside representatives from these entertainment districts.
- The City will partner with entertainment districts to develop proposals to make the designated pick-up locations safe, well-lit and accessible.
The mayor says he wants the city's feedback and suggestions on the proposals.