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S. 1871: Sami’s Law


Should Uber and Lyft vehicles be required to show more visible identification, to prevent people from mistakenly getting into other vehicles?

Context

Samantha “Sami” Josephson was abducted and murdered in April, after entering a vehicle she mistakenly thought was her Uber ride she’d requested a few minutes prior. The New Jersey native was a 21-year-old University of South Carolina senior.

In response, her home state of New Jersey on June 20 became the first state to sign Sami’s Law, which requires rideshare companies such as Uber and Lyft to:

  • Display two “identifying markers” on the front windshield and rear window.
  • Display two placards with the driver’s name, photograph, and license plate number on the driver’s side and passenger’s side rear windows.
  • Display two copies of a barcode, which a passenger can scan to confirm the vehicle is the one they ordered.

Any violation is levied a $250 fine, while any rideshare company that fails to comply can be banned from operating in New Jersey.

What the legislation does

Sami’s Law is a federal version of the same law, requiring the same identifying markers and barcode on rideshare vehicles. Although such rideshare companies are currently regulated by municipalities and states rather than the federal government, the bill would penalize any state which fails to comply by withholding 1% of their federal highway funding.

The House version was introduced on June 13 as bill number H.R. 3262, by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ4), the representative from Sami Josephson’s home district in New Jersey. The Senate version was introduced the same day as bill number S. 1871, by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD).

What supporters say

Supporters argue the legislation helps protect customer safety and could potentially prevent further crimes — up to and including murder — from occurring.

“Seymour and Marci Josephson are courageously working in their daughter’s, Sami’s, memory to protect ride-share passengers,” Rep. Smith said in a press release. “Through their unspeakable pain, they are selflessly working for common-sense laws to boost passenger safety and crack down on predators posing as ride-share drivers.”

“They have already made an enormous impact at home, as New Jersey has passed legislation that mirrors the federal version of Sami’s Law,” Rep. Smith continued. “But Sami’s murder underscores that we need federal legislation so that ride-share customers are equally protected in all 50 states.”

“Congress has a responsibility to take reasonable action to protect public safety so that no other family has to endure the same tragedy as the Josephson family,” Sen. Cardin said in the same press release. “Ride sharing has become commonplace across the country today, making a nationwide response essential. No one should be left at risk.”

What opponents say

GovTrack Insider was unable to locate any statements of opposition. To the extent that New Jersey’s state law votes can be considered predictive of the federal law, it passed the state House unanimously 77 to 0, and the state Senate also unanimously 38 to 0.

Odds of passage

The House version has attracted 14 bipartisan cosponsors, a precisely even mix of seven Democrats and seven Republicans. It awaits a potential vote in either the House Energy and Commerce Committee or the House House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

The Senate version has attracted four cosponsors, all Democrats. (It’s unclear why, unlike in the House version, no Republicans have yet signed on.) It awaits a potential vote in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Last updated Jul 30, 2019. View all GovTrack summaries.

The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Jun 13, 2019.


Sami's Law

This bill directs the Department of Transportation to withhold specified graduated percentages of a state's apportionment of certain federal-aid highway funds if the state has not enacted and is not enforcing certain transportation network company (TNC) vehicle identification laws. A "transportation network company" is an entity that uses a digital network to connect riders to drivers affiliated with the entity to transport the rider using a vehicle owned, leased, or otherwise authorized for use by the driver to a point chosen by the rider.

States must require TNC drivers to display (1) a front and rear license plate; (2) a scannable quick response or similar code on the windows for riders to verify that they are entering the correct authorized vehicle; and (3) illuminated signs that are visible in both day and night, and readable from fifty feet. Drivers must also get periodic safety inspections of their ride-hailing vehicle.

The bill prohibits the sale of illuminated TNC vehicle signs by any person other than a transportation network company and the display of such signs by individuals who are not authorized drivers.