Ridesharing apps are a popular alternative to public transportation, and the legislature has added a requirement to the drivers in N.C. in order to keep both drivers and fares safe.

Drivers from rideshare companies such as Uber and Lyft must now display their license plate number on the front of their vehicle, according to Session Law 2019-194 that went into effect on Oct. 1.

“Today marks a huge improvement in the safety of ridesharing in North Carolina,” said Rep. John Bell (R-Wayne), in a statement released on Oct. 1. “These new safeguards will help keep our citizens safe and hopefully serve as a national model for other states. I am proud to have helped lead this bipartisan effort to make ridesharing safer in North Carolina.”

According to Bell, the law comes after the murder of University of South Carolina student Samantha Josephson by a man impersonating her Uber driver.

When Uber came to Boone in 2017 and Lyft followed shortly thereafter, ridesharing officially arrived in the High Country, popular among locals and college students alike. However, during the first couple of months of 2019, locally and nationally, police warned prospective riders to be wary of individuals who may be claiming to be a company driver when they are not.

The bill also makes it a criminal penalty to impersonate a rideshare driver and a misdemeanor to assault a rideshare driver.

Master Trooper Jeffery S. Swagger of the NCSHP, explained that this new law does not require front license plates on the vehicles of rideshare drivers. However, it does require the license plate number to be displayed from the front of the vehicle.

“Many drivers are complying with this requirement by displaying either a placard provided by the rideshare employer, a print-at-home style piece of paper or a handwritten number on paper. This placard or paper is then simply taped to the inside of the front windshield,” Swagger said.

One High Country local Richard Warren formerly worked for both major ridesharing companies, Uber and Lyft. He says that Lyft is preparing drivers by sending them front license plates.

“I haven’t heard anything from Uber about it,” he said. Despite this, the company website for the Boone area advertises a printable placard for drivers to use until a permanent one arrives in the mail.

Warren also knows that drivers need to be aware and cautious in regard to their own safety.

“You have to be extremely careful who you pick up, especially at night. Double check and make sure you are picking up the right person,” Warren said. “In our area, which I consider rural, it’s not too bad. But places like Hickory or Charlotte you need to know the bad areas and stay away from them.”

Law enforcement officers continue to urge drivers and fares to verify who they’re riding with in order to keep themselves safe.

“Since laws can’t prevent every crime, it is imperative that rideshare customers take as many precautions as necessary to be responsible for their own safety,” said Swagger.

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