Parents of slain college student speak out on ride-sharing safety

ABC News
ABC News

(NEW YORK) — The parents of a University of South Carolina student who mistook her alleged killer’s car for an Uber spoke out Monday to recommend changes in the ride-sharing industry so no one else will have to endure the grief they are experiencing.

“We’ve heard from strangers all over the country and so many people have told us it could have been our daughter, our son, ourselves,” Marci Josephson, whose daughter, Samantha, was killed last month, told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America.

“I think it’s just become such a natural or new phenomenon using Uber. We trust people and you can’t. You have to change the way that the laws are to make it safer because that’s our nature. We automatically assume that we’re safe,” she continued.

Samantha’s father, Seymour, added, “We grow up teaching our kids not to get into cars with strangers. And what do we do? We get into cars with strangers.”

Samantha Josephson, a senior political science major, was out with friends in the Five Points neighborhood of Columbia, South Carolina when she ordered an Uber to take her home in the early hours of March 29. Security video showed her getting into a car around 2 a.m., which police believe she thought was her Uber.

Police said after she got into the car, her alleged killer activated the child safety door locks, preventing her from escaping.

Samantha’s body was found in a wooded area near where suspected killer, Nathaniel Rowland, recently lived, police said, and the student’s cellphone and blood were found in Rowland’s car.

Rowland was arrested and charged with murder and kidnapping. He is awaiting a bail hearing on April 22.

“We just want you to know that she is a fabulous young woman,” Marci Josephson said of her daughter. “Kind, a best friend to everyone, really determined, hard worker and a fun young woman.”

Seymour Josephson said he called her “sweet pea.”

“I called both of my children sweet pea. They are just, both of my kids, are phenomenal. They’re our best friends,” he said.

During a vigil for Samantha earlier this month, Seymour Josephson launched a quest to make sure other students are made aware of the potential dangers of ride-sharing.

South Carolina lawmakers introduced the “Samantha L. Josephson Ridesharing Safety Act,” which would require ride-sharing vehicles to have an illuminated, company-provided sign with the company’s “trademark or logo that is patently visible so as to be seen in darkness.”

While Seymour Josephson said the proposed law is a “great start,” he wants to see more, including requiring ride-sharing operators to have license plates on the front of their cars. South Carolina is one of 19 states that don’t require license plates on the front of cars.

“When the car is pulling up, you can’t see the front license plate,” the father said.

He also wants ride-sharing companies to place bar codes on the passenger and driver’s side of vehicles.

“You put your phone up to it and if turns green, that’s my ride. If it’s not your ride, it turns red,” he said. “The technology is already out there. It’s a very easy way to implement safety for the consumer as well as the driver.”

Marci Seymour said everyone who takes a ride-sharing vehicle should get into the habit of asking the driver if they know the name of the person they are picking up before getting into the car.

“It has to be automatic, like putting on a seat-belt,” she said. “You have to ask, ‘What’s my name?’ because it can be anyone.”

Samantha Josephson was expected to graduate from the University of South Carolina this spring and was planning to go to law school at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

Her parents plan to be at their daughter’s graduation, where her diploma will be presented posthumously.

“It will be the hardest thing for us to go, but we want to go,” the mother said. “She wanted us to be there.”

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