New report released on rideshare attacks as part of ‘Sami’s Law’ requirement

Samantha Josephson was just weeks away from graduating from the University of South Carolina in 2019 and getting ready to head to law school when an innocent mistake cost her life.

Samantha was kidnapped and killed by a man she thought was her Uber driver after getting into the wrong car.

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“It’s a nightmare,” her father Seymour Josephson told our Washington News Bureau.  “We teach our kids growing up, don’t talk to strangers, and don’t get in cars with strangers.”

That’s why Josephson’s loved ones started the #WHATSMYNAME Foundation, which is all about encouraging people to take safety precautions before getting into a rideshare car.

“We still get today direct messages and emails about sexual assaults,” said Seymour Josephson about the ongoing safety problem.

They helped pass Sami’s Law named after Samantha, which was signed by President Biden last year.

It requires the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study physical and sexual assaults against rideshare and taxi drivers and passengers in 2019 and 2020, and driver background checks for taxis and rideshares.

Now, we’re getting a look at some of the findings on rideshare assaults in GAO’s new report.

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It found there were at least 19 deadly attacks against drivers in 2019 and at least 4,600 sexual assaults reported by drivers, passengers, and third parties such as law enforcement that year.

However, this data is not the whole picture because there are no national requirements to collect this information and not every company publicly reports all incidents.

There is also more information readily available about attacks against drivers compared to passengers.

“There is no federal requirement to collect data specifically on assaults against drivers and passengers of ride-sourcing vehicles and taxis,” the report said. “Some federal and non-federal sources collect data on such assaults, but the available data cannot fully describe the extent of assaults in these industries.”

The report also said companies say the lack of standardized definitions for physical assaults makes it difficult to properly classify incidents.

In response to the report, a spokesperson for Uber said:

“While the vast majority (99.9%) of trips on Uber are completed with no safety-related reports at all, we know that even one incident is one too many, which is why our work on safety is never done — and why we continue to collaborate with policymakers and safety experts on solutions to improve ride-hail safety. In addition to an in-app emergency button and 24/7 live support from ADT Safety Agents, every trip on the Uber app is GPS tracked, drivers must pass a background check, and riders are given the make, model, license plate, and driver’s name to verify their ride before getting into the vehicle.”

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A Lyft spokesperson released a statement saying:

“Safety is fundamental to Lyft. We are committed to helping protect our community from crime - that’s why we have a dedicated, around-the-clock safety response team, a partnership with ADT to aid in emergencies, smart trip check-in, and work with leading national organizations to inform our safety policies. Lyft supported Sami’s Law, which requires this report, and we remain deeply committed to investing in technology, policies, and partnerships to help make the Lyft platform as safe as it can be for drivers and riders.”

The Josephson family argues more work still needs to be done to better protect the public.

Samantha’s dad says they’ll keep pressing Congress for more safety measures.

“I’m hoping that this report has enough teeth to get that momentum going again,” said Seymour Josephson.

As her family continues their advocacy, they want Samantha’s legacy to live on.

“I want people to remember her laugh, her smile,” said Seymour Josephson. “How smart she actually was because she was a really smart kid.”

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