How a UofSC student’s death sparked rideshare safety changes across SC, US

South Carolina News

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) — On March 29, 2019, Samantha Josephson ordered an Uber after a night out in the Five Points district of Columbia.

According to the Columbia Police Department, Josephson, 21, got into a vehicle she believed was her ride.

Police said it was the wrong car.

Officers said the driver of that vehicle, Nathaniel Rowland, kidnapped and murdered Josephson. Her body was found in rural Clarendon County the next day. Rowland’s trial began this week. The tragedy shocked the Columbia community, state and country.

Her family, the University of South Carolina, state lawmakers and others have taken steps to make sure something like this could never happen again. Just a few weeks after her death in 2019, state lawmakers passed the Samantha L. Josephson Ridesharing Safety Act. The law requires drivers in the state to display their license plate number on the front of their vehicle while picking up passengers

Representative Seth Rose (D-District 72) filed the legislation following Josephson’s death. He said, “This tragedy did bring a lot of awareness to the dangers of ridesharing driving itself.”

The act also made it a crime to impersonate a rideshare driver in South Carolina. According to the law, anyone who misrepresents themselves as a driver is guilty of a misdemeanor. They could be fined up to $500 and end up in jail for up to 30 days.

If they commit another crime while impersonating a rideshare driver, they could be fined up to $1,000 and face up to two years in prison.

Rose said, “This horrific incident and the amount of publicity it received did the most good by reminding people to be careful before getting into a vehicle. Make sure you check the license plate and have the driver say your name.”

In the aftermath of Josephson’s death, ridesharing companies created new safety measures to protect drivers and passengers. Uber partnered with the University of South Carolina for a campus safety initiative. They aimed to build public awareness, help students learn how to avoid fake rideshare drivers, and support campus rides programs at major colleges across the country.

The Columbia area also piloted new safety features ahead of a nationwide launch. In the Five Points district, where Josephson was kidnapped, a new designated area for rideshare pick-ups was established.

Josephson’s parents created the ‘What’s My Name’ Foundation to honor their daughter. The foundation works to educate others on rideshare safety, supports charitable organizations and establish scholarships for high school seniors.

The Josephson’s have also voiced support for federal legislation that would require all rideshare drivers across the country to clearly identify themselves to passengers. Sami’s Law passed the US House in 2020. It wasn’t taken up by the Senate last year and did not become law.

The legislation was re-introduced in 2021.

Through the month of August, the South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS) is undergoing its annual audit of rideshare driver files. According to officials, ORS investigates driver information and consumer complaints to confirm that drivers with the companies meet the requirements of state laws. Officials said this is done to keep passengers safe.

There are three rideshare companies approved to operate in South Carolina: Lyft, Uber and Uzurv.

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