'Helping riders avoid psychos is a no-brainer': After Samantha Josephson murder, focus turns to laws

John Bacon

Four days after a University of South Carolina student was killed after entering a car she mistakenly thought was her Uber ride, lawmakers in the state were introducing a bill Tuesday to require all ride-hailing services in the state to have illuminated signs on their vehicles. 

State Reps. Seth Rose, a Democrat, and Republican Micah Caskey said the law would require the sign to be visible from at least 50 feet away.

"Helping riders avoid psychos is a no-brainer," Caskey said in a Twitter post. "I’m hopeful we can get this bipartisanship bill through the legislature quickly."

Samantha Josephson, 21, was standing outside a bar in the trendy Five Points district of Columbia at around 2 a.m. Friday when a vehicle rolled up and she climbed into the back seat, apparently believing it was the Uber ride she ordered, police said. Surveillance video shows the Chevy Impala drive away.

Josephson's body was found by hunters Saturday afternoon in a rural area more than 60 miles away. Police made an arrest hours later, saying blood and her cellphone were found in the suspect's vehicle. The child locks had been engaged, meaning she would have been unable to flee when she realized her mistake. 

Josephson's death was the result of "multiple sharp force injuries," the State Law Enforcement Division said.

Her father, Seymour Josephson, says he wants others to learn from what happened to his daughter and be more careful using ride-hailing services. And he wants to see those services improve safety for clients. 

"Samantha’s father said he wants everyone to remember her name," Rose said. "This bill requiring illuminated signage for ride-sharing vehicles will be named the ”Samantha L. Josephson Ridesharing Safety Act."

Uber already has begun rolling out a glowing sign it calls "beacon" in some markets. The device glows in a color the would-be passenger selects so they’ll know exactly which car is the one they are waiting for.

Services for Josephson are set for Wednesday in her native New Jersey. A $5,000 GoFundMe campaign to raise money for funeral and other expenses had raised more than $65,000 in pledges Monday.

“Nothing is ever going to stop psychos from doing psycho things, but if we can take one step to make it harder for psychos to be psychos, we should do it," Caskey said.

Contributing: Mollie R. Simon, The Greenville News