NC House committee approves bill aimed at improving ride-sharing service safety

North Carolina
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A House committee gave approval Tuesday to a bill aimed at improving safety when people use ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft.

The issue has received greater attention after police in South Carolina say a man murdered 21-year-old Samantha Josephson when she got into a car she believed was her Uber.

“We grew up our whole lives not to get in cars with strangers. Now, we’re getting in cars with strangers. That’s scary in itself,” said state Rep. John Bell (R-10th). “Unfortunately, we’ve had bad actors try to do bad things to people and use this ride share platform as a way to access those people.”

A bill that Bell has sponsored would require drivers to display signs showing their company’s logo. They would also have to show license plate information on the front of their cars. In addition, it would become a crime to impersonate a driver.

The bill doesn’t specify punishments for violating the sign and license plate requirements. Bell said he’s still trying to work out additional details regarding enforcement as the bill makes its way through additional committees.

It also allocates $100,000 to the UNC Board of Governors “to develop and implement an awareness campaign to educate students.”

An amendment approved Tuesday would require drivers be at least 21 years old. Spokespeople for Uber and Lyft say the company already mandates that in North Carolina.

The bill also establishes a commission to further study the issue and make recommendations on additional laws. Those could include setting up a state database of drivers and requiring them to return company signs if they quit driving for the companies.

In an email, Lyft spokesperson Campbell Matthews wrote, “We are supportive of the measures laid out in the Passenger Protection Act and thank Leader Bell for his engagement and open discussion on this topic throughout the process. Safety is fundamental to Lyft, which is why we have worked hard to design policies and features that protect both drivers and riders. We look forward to continued discussions with the North Carolina General Assembly as we pursue our shared goal of ensuring rides are safe for all members of our community.”

Uber spokesperson Evangeline George said, “We appreciate efforts to strengthen safety, and our hearts remain with Samantha Josephson’s family and loved ones.  We’re committed to working with legislators, as well as universities, to keep students safe and want to ensure riders take the most effective steps to stay safe.  We hope to continue working collectively with legislators to put safety first, helping riders match a car’s license plate to the license plate number displayed to them in the app and addressing some safety concerns we still have about the current trade dress language in the legislation.”

It’s not clear when the state House of Representatives may vote on the bill.

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