By Shaun Chornobroff
The acronym “S.A.M.I.” will be a familiar sight at Rider University in the near future with signs promoting safety regarding the use of rideshare companies such as Lyft or Uber being displayed around campus by Public Safety.
Signs with the “S.A.M.I.” acronym that stands for “Stop, Ask, Match, Inform” will be placed around residence halls and other high volume areas, such as the Bart Luedeke Center (BLC) and the Student Recreation Center (SRC), Public Safety’s Commander of Emergency Management and Services, David Burns, said in an interview with The Rider News.
“I think everybody has to be aware of surroundings and know what’s going on. It could happen to any of us,” Burns said. “So the most important thing is to get the most education out there, make people aware of what programs are available.”
Rider displaying the signs are a part of a Mercer County wide initiative to display the signage with the #WhatsMyName foundation.
The organization was started in memory of Samantha Josephson, a 21-year-old resident of Robbinsville, New Jersey and University of South Carolina student who was kidnapped and murdered in March of 2019 after entering the car of a person posing as a rideshare driver. Her parents Seymour Josephson and Marci Josephson started the foundation to educate others about the potential hazards ridesharing can have if those using the apps aren’t cautious.
Seymour Josephson says the “S.A.M.I.” signs are an educational tool that can save lives.
“If I can get them to do two things out of those four things, like ask the driver ‘what’s my name’ before getting into a car and to reinforce matching the license plate to the display, then as an organization we’ve done our job,” he said.
The foundation has a goal of spreading awareness of rideshare safety not only across New Jersey, but across the country and sees college campuses as an important spot for signage since a high number of college students use rideshare apps.
When the public safety department at Rider was asked to put these signs around campus, Burns said the department did not hesitate at the opportunity.
“We as Rider University and the public safety department just want to give our students and guests on the campus the most valuable piece of information [we can],” Burns said.
The signs encourage students to review safety features in the rideshare app, as well as other safety precautions, such as asking drivers for their name, matching license plates and sharing details of the ride to ensure safety.
There are hopes for signs to be placed at other colleges in Mercer County as well as train stations, bars and other locations that draw a high volume of rideshares, according to a document shared with The Rider News.
A spokesperson from The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), located three miles away from Rider’s Lawrenceville campus, confirmed TCNJ already has rideshare safety signs on its campus.
Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo J. Onofri has developed a relationship with the foundation and is playing a continuously integral role in spreading acknowledgment of the potential dangers of ridesharing.
“What happened to Sami could really happen to anyone,” Onofri said. “So it’s really just trying to make people aware of their surroundings, make people aware of the kind of vehicle that they’re getting into.”
In June of 2019, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed “Sami’s Law,” a piece of legislation designed to protect rideshare passengers by requiring additional identification for drivers.
The law required rideshare companies to provide markers and plaque cards for drivers to display on vehicles, as well as two copies of a two-dimensional barcode or other forms of machine compatible code that passengers can scan to identify a vehicle, according to a press release announcing the signing of Sami’s Law.
“Every day, thousands of rideshare passengers entrust drivers to get them to and from home, school, and work safely and without delay,” Murphy said in the press release. “Just one unscrupulous mind seeking to take advantage of those passengers is one too many, and it is our responsibility to keep riders safe.”
For more information about the #WhatsMyName Foundation, its efforts and rideshare safety, go to whatsmyname.org
Originally printed in the 10/5 issue.