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Legislation is pending in the U.S. Senate that, if passed, would result in safer rental cars and cut down on motor vehicle accidents. Senate Bill 1440–named the “Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act” after two California sisters who died in a motor vehicle accident in 2004–would prohibit rental car companies from renting or selling vehicles impacted by a safety recall until recall repairs have been made.

Currently, there are no federal restrictions barring rental car companies from keeping recalled vehicles in their active rental fleets. “What they’re doing now is playing ‘rental car roulette’ with people’s lives,” said Rosemary Shahan, president of Consumers for Automobile Reliability and Safety (CARS). “It’s just common sense that if the vehicle is under a safety recall they should ground it until it’s fixed.”

David Butler of Consumers Union, the policy division of Consumer Reports, says “You really are at the mercy of the rental car company. We have seen isolated incidents where people have rented a car that’s been recalled, it hasn’t been fixed and there have been real problems, accidents and even in a few isolated cases, deaths.”

The car that had been rented to Raechel and Jacqueline Houck had been recalled for a possible engine fire hazard, but the car had not been repaired.  Both young women were killed when the car crashed into an 18-wheeler truck after the rental car caught on fire.  After the motor vehicle accident, the girls’ mother filed suit against the car rental company.  Mrs. Houck said “I do not want my daughters to have died in vain. It was clear that Enterprise knew exactly what it was doing. Enterprise did not have an internal company policy to deal with rental car recalls. It’s first and foremost policy is to rent the car.”

The proposed bill would also close a dangerous loophole in the Motor Vehicle Safety Act.  That act bars car dealers from selling a vehicle subject to a safety recall until repairs have been made, but does not apply to rental car companies. Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety said, “what seems to happen is the rental car companies let the recalls pile up until they sell the vehicle. When they sell them, there’s no disclosure that there’s an outstanding recall, so you have a double whammy that the defect isn’t fixed and there’s now a new owner who’s not going to get the recall notice from the car company.”

For more information, contact the Ohio car accident lawyers at Clark, Perdue & List.

Source: NBC News Bottom Line, “Lawmakers fight to end ‘rental car roulette’ danger,” Herb Weisbaum, June 12, 2012.