Days after a University of South Carolina student was abducted and killed when she mistakenly got in a car that she thought was her Uber, state lawmakers plan to file legislation that would require rideshares to have illuminated signage.
State Rep. Seth Rose, a Columbia Democrat, says he plans to file what he is calling the Samantha L. Josephson Rideshare Safety Act on Tuesday. Republican state Rep. Micah Caskey, of Lexington County, is set to co-sponsor the bill.
According to Rose, current state law says that illuminated signage is optional for ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft. His proposal would make it mandatory.
"I'm basically wanting to require that ridesharing companies have to illuminate their identifying marks, so that we know who they are," Rose tells Free Times.
At about 2 a.m. March 29, USC student Samantha Josephson, 21, of New Jersey, was in Five Points when she got into a car, a black Impala, she believed to be an Uber ride.
However, it was not her ride. Josephson’s body was later discovered by turkey hunters in a remote area of Clarendon County.
Just more than 24 hours after Josephson went missing, at about 3 a.m. on March 30, a Columbia Police officer spotted a black Impala a few blocks from Five Points and pulled the car over. After a foot chase, the driver, 24-year-old Nathaniel Rowland, of Clarendon, was arrested. He's been charged with murder and kidnapping by the state Law Enforcement Division.
According to Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook, blood found in Rowland’s car and in the trunk of the car matched Josephson. Rowland chose not to appear at a March 31 bond hearing. He’s being held at Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center.
Several hundred people attended a candlelight vigil for Josephson on the evening of March 31 at USC.
Rose notes that, in larger markets, leading rideshare companies provide signage to drivers that can be illuminated. He wants to see it become law in South Carolina.
Caskey commented on the coming bill on Twitter on Monday afternoon.
"Helping riders avoid psychos is a no-brainer," he tweeted. "I’m hopeful we can get this [bipartisan] bill through the Legislature quickly."
Rose says he realizes mandating that rideshares have an illuminated sign is not going to be a foolproof method to prevent a tragedy similar to Josephson's. But he thinks it could help.
"I understand that not every tragedy will be stopped," Rose says. "I know that there will still be tragedies around this country going forward. But we should do what we can to reduce the risk. That's what this is about."
The proposed law states that a rideshare's signage "must be readable in daylight hours at a distance of 50 feet" and must be illuminated so that it is "patently visible in darkness."