Sami’s Law, a new piece of legislation proposed in the House, is intended as a well-meaning response to a recent tragedy. Earlier this year, a young woman was killed after getting into a car she mistook for an Uber that she had ordered minutes earlier. It’s a heartbreaking story, and it struck a chord with many Americans who have hopped into rideshares without carefully crosschecking the license plate first.
As common as that mistake is, this tragedy was an isolated incident. The suspect was not a driver for any rideshare service and never had been, nor was he impersonating one in any obvious way. He appears to have simply been an opportunistic, cold-blooded killer.
It's understandable that lawmakers want to prevent anything similar from happening again, but there is a major risk in messing with a winning formula to solve a very rare problem. The proposed legislation would do little to improve safety while making it much more complicated for regular people to earn money from ridesharing.
The law’s mandates are onerous: all drivers would be required to place at least two identifying markers on the front windshield and rear window, plus two placards with their name, picture and license plate number on the rear side windows and two copies of a barcode on the rear side windows that a passenger can scan to confirm the vehicle is the one they ordered. Any driver who forgets even one of these numerous decals would be subject to a hefty fine.
Ridesharing is not a full-time job for most drivers. It’s something they do on the way home from their day job, or after dropping their kids off at school. For most, the idea of driving around with their headshot, name and multiple barcodes stuck to their windows is a bridge too far. It essentially requires giving their personal cars the look and feel of a full-time cab. And putting the material up and taking it down each time would be enough of a pain to deter casual drivers.
These rules are also a burden for riders. No customer wants to scan a barcode each time they get into a car. What if it’s a cold and rainy day? What if cars are honking and traffic is blocked? Besides, couldn’t a rider achieve the same goal by simply asking the driver to confirm his or her name?