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Sexual assault lawsuit against Lyft prompts ride share companies to add new safety features

Driver education and user access to 911 are among initiatives at Uber and Lyft ride share apps

SOUTH CAROLINA, USA — According to reports by CBS News, 14 women who said they were raped or sexually assaulted by Lyft drivers are suing the company. The suit claims Lyft mishandled their complaints against drivers, in some cases allowing the drivers to continue working following the alleged assaults. 

The women say the app does not do enough to stop drivers from assaulting passengers. They allege Lyft fails to adequately perform background checks, does not communicate with victims after they accuse drivers of sexual assault, and does not have adequate technology in place to protect passengers. 

Five days after the lawsuit was filed, Lyft introduced three new safety features to improve rider's safety and enhance their overall experience when using the application.

"We believe every Lyft ride should be a welcoming, safe space -- for everyone," Lyft said. "We're expanding our Community Safety Program with new initiatives to bring you greater protection and peace of mind."

The first new feature is smart trip check-in. Lyft says if user's rides seem to have unexplained delays then they will reach out to see if support is needed. If emergency services are necessary, then they will request assistance.

Drivers will be required to take a community safety education course. The course will educate about appropriate behavior in a Lyft ride to prevent misconduct. Lyft says they are developing this course in partnership with RAINN.  According to Lyft, RAINN is the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the U.S.

And lastly, riders will have access to 911 from within the app. This feature will give riders their current location and vehicle information, including license plate. This will allow riders to quickly share with dispatchers. 


Uber drivers now have hour limits. After a certain amount of consecutive hours, the app locks drivers out of the app, causing them to take a break.

Uber has also made changes to improve safety for their riders.

The app allows users to pick trusted contacts. The selected contacts can monitor or follow the ride to ensure their loved one's safety.

There will also be a safety tool kit feature.  Users can access the important safety features like the emergency button and safety center. This can be found by tapping on the shield icon on the map next time a trip is taken. 

This all comes after the death of 21-year-old Samantha Josephson. The New Jersey native was a senior at the University of South Carolina.

Early Friday morning, March 29 around 1:00 a.m., Josephson mistakenly got into what she thought was her Uber after a night out in Five Points.

Credit: Seymour Josephson/Facebook
Samantha Josephson

Thirteen hours later, nearly 70 miles outside of Columbia in Clarendon country, two turkey hunters discovered her body in a wooded area. 

She was reported missing by her friends, and Columbia police began searching for her. 

RELATED: 911 tape released in USC student murder case

Around 3 a.m. Saturday morning, 24-year-old Nathaniel Rowland was discovered near Five Points, and was arrested.

RELATED: New charge filed in murder case of USC student Samantha Josephson

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After the tragedy, Uber and USC teamed up to create new safety requirements.

South Carolina ride-share drivers will be required to display their license plate numbers on the front of their cars. 

RELATED: SC ride-share drivers under new safety regulations

Anyone misrepresenting themselves as a driver or using the app to commit a crime could face a hefty fine and jail time. 

Bar Anticipation (Bar A) in Belmar NJ now has 2 Ride Share Zone SAMI signs installed. A big shout out to them!!!!!

Josephson's death also started the 'What's my name?' movement, prompting riders to ask their driver what their name is before getting in the car.

Uber officials say the app will send a push alert to riders when they select a driver to check the license plate, car details and driver's photo before getting inside the car. 

The 'Samantha Josephson Ride-sharing Safety Act' also known as Sam's Law took affect in June.

Josephson was suppose to start law school this fall. 

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