Santa Cruz Sentinel (CA)
July 11, 2012
Three congressional representatives joined forces Tuesday to introduce the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Rental Car Safety Act, named for two sisters from Santa Cruz, CA, who were killed in 2004 while driving a rented Chrysler PT Cruiser under safety recall.
“If a recall notice has been issued for a rented car, that car should be taken off the road until it’s fixed; it’s that simple,” said Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.), who introduced the bill with Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.). “Passing this straightforward bill will protect the public’s safety and ensure that what happened to Raechel and Jacquie Houck will never happen again.”
The bill is identical to the agreement reached this year by Hertz and Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, according to Rosemary Shahan of CARS, which lobbies for consumers.
This is the first time such a bill has been introduced in the House, Shahan said, calling it “a major step forward in gaining enactment of federal legislation to prohibit rentals and sales of vehicles that are being recalled due to safety defects.”
Raechel Houck, 24, and Jacqueline Houck, 20, had rented a PT Cruiser with an unrepaired safety defect from Enterprise Rent-A-Car. The car had a power-steering hose prone to catch fire, and the Houcks’ rental caught fire and crashed into a tractor-trailer. A jury awarded the parents of the Houck sisters $15 million in damages.
Federal law prohibits manufacturers and new-car dealers from selling recalled vehicles before they are repaired. But that law does not apply to rental-car companies, something the girls’ mother, Cally Houck, has been pressing to change.
“I applaud Cally Houck for her tireless work on this issue,” Engel said, noting Hertz’s support. “This bill will save lives, and I call on my colleagues and the other car-rental agencies to support this legislation.”
Meanwhile, State Assemblyman Bill Monning (D-Carmel) reports he is concerned about the safety of state employees in light of the state’s rental-car contract with Enterprise, which runs through May 20, 2013.
He has asked Fred Klass, who heads the Department of General Services, to require rental-car companies seeking the state contract to provide information on whether they have a policy to ground cars under recall until repaired. State employees, he said, should be able to trust that the vehicle they are renting is safe.
“There is no reason for anyone to be concerned about the safety of the vehicles we rent,” Enterprise spokeswoman Laura Bryant said, citing improvements in how the car-rental industry tracks and repairs automobile recalls. “Our industry believes this issue has been effectively addressed.”
She said Enterprise favors legislation that would take into account industry considerations such as time needed to review recall notices, identify affected vehicles, and alert branch offices and employees.
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