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Lyft riders will soon be able to dial 911 from the app

Student's death raises rideshare concerns

Lyft is stepping up its safety measures and introducing a panic button for riders who need to call 911. It's just one of several new safety initiatives the ride-sharing app announced Tuesday, following outrage over the death of a University of South Carolina student.

In April, 21-year-old Samantha Josephson was killed after she mistakenly got into a car she thought was her Uber ride. Following the incident, lawmakers in South Carolina passed a bill requiring Uber, Lyft and other ride-sharing drivers to have a lighted sign to clearly identify their vehicles.

In-app 911 access was first introduced by Uber last year. In September, Lyft introduced an in-app 911 button for drivers to get quick emergency assistance. The company is now rolling out the feature for riders as well.

"Lyft is relentlessly focused on finding new ways to further strengthen safety measures on our platform," Mary Winfield, Lyft's Head of Trust & Safety, said in a press release. "Today, we're glad to continue building on our commitment to safety by making it easier to identify your Lyft ride, get help in an unsafe situation and ensure everyone in our community is held to the same standards."

The panic button isn't the only new feature. Lyft is making license plate numbers larger and more prominent in its app, offering sexual harassment prevention education to all drivers and riders and requiring riders who rate a driver less than four stars to justify the rating with additional details. The new features will roll out in the coming months.

Lyft has a 24/7 support line for emergencies and Uber does as well in more than a dozen major cities. Both companies also urge riders to double-check all information about its drivers, including the driver's name, photo, vehicle and license plate.