NC legislators propose bill to make ride-sharing safer after SC student killed

Bill proposed in NC following the death of South Carolina student

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - North Carolina legislators are working to improve the safety of ride-sharing just days after University of South Carolina student Samantha Josephson was abducted and killed by a person impersonating an Uber driver.

Lawmakers announced the creation of the Passenger Protection Act Thursday, according to NC House Majority Leader John Bell. The bill mirrors legislation passed days earlier in the South Carolina House.

If the bill passes, it would require drivers to display a “consistent and distinctive” illuminated sign when they’re on the job.

Companies like Uber and Lyft would also have to provide passengers a photo of their driver, a description of the car picking them up, the vehicle’s license plate number and the driver’s real time location displayed on a map. Furthermore, the ride-sharing companies would have to maintain records of their services for a full year from the date the ride occurred and keep driver information a full year after the employee breaks ties with the company.

“While the horrific murder of Samantha Josephson brought this issue to the forefront of the news, the dangerous problem of ride-sharing impersonators has been going on for years across the country, especially around college campuses,” said Rep. Bell. “We believe this bill is the least intrusive and reasonable way to help passengers properly identify their vehicles. While we know it is not a fix-all, it is a step in the right direction and the start of a much-needed conversation about improving ride-sharing safety in North Carolina.”

Uber driver Jesse Bright says he doesn’t have much faith in the Passenger Protection Act. The Uber app already provides the driver’s photo, name, the car make/model and license plate number.

“I think that it looks good on the surface, but I don’t think it would have helped with the issue that happened in South Carolina. There’s already a lot of safeguards that Uber and Lyft have to make sure you don’t get in the wrong vehicle," said Bright.

Bright has driven for Uber since 2013, and says he takes extra steps to make sure he’s picking up the right person.

“Make sure the vehicle you’re getting in matches the vehicle you’re supposed to be getting in, make sure the license plates the same and that the driver looks like the driver in the picture,” said Bright.

Despite ride share drivers like Bright taking extra precautions, some riders still don’t feel at ease. UNCW student, Liz Ditcheoz, said she has gotten into an Uber before even though she was not sure if the driver was meant for her.

“It was the right Uber, but the car color was different so it was a little sketchy," said Ditcheoz.

UNCW student Cassidy Henult also had an experience that also made her question her safety.

“I’ve had one Uber where I was pretty uncomfortable, but as soon as I get in Ubers I make sure the doors and the child safety are unlocked," said Henult. "That’s something I’ve always been taught. If I ever feel uncomfortable, I just roll down the window and try not to talk.”

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