US Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that he is introducing legislation to keep unsafe rental cars, that are subject to recall notices, off New York roads. In light of data that shows rental car companies are continuing to rent recalled cars before they have fixed the safety problem, Sen. Schumer will introduce the Safe Rental Car Act that closes a dangerous loophole.
Under current law, any car under a recall notice cannot be sold by an auto dealer until the safety issue has been resolved, but that same restriction does not apply to rental car companies, which are currently allowed to rent cars under recall before the relevant safety issue has been addressed.
Two sisters from California were tragically killed when their rented PT Cruiser caught fire and crashed as a result of a safety defect subject to a recall. Schumer's bill will address serious concerns brought to light by a recent study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that shows that major rental car companies are failing to address safety recall issues for a significant percentage of cars in their rental car fleets before renting their vehicles.
"Rental car companies should be immediately barred from renting cars that would be pulled from showrooms and car dealer lots because of safety recall concerns," said Schumer. "This is a serious public safety issue and, tragically, we have already seen the grave and devastating consequences of inaction. This bill is just plain common sense - rental car companies should not be in the business of renting cars that pose serious risks to drivers and passengers. We need to keep these cars off of New York roads until they are fixed, and the Safe Rental Car Act will make sure that's exactly what happens."
Under the new legislation, rental car companies would be subject to the same strict regulations that prevent car dealers from selling automobiles under recall. When a recall notice is issued for a particular vehicle, auto dealers are forbidden from selling the vehicle until it has been serviced and the issue that sparked the recall notice has been corrected. Rental car companies fall into a loophole that allows them to continue placing the same vehicles that would be barred from show rooms and dealer lots on the streets. The current lack of federal standards puts New York families who rent cars or share the road with rental car drivers at risk.
Schumer's Safe Rental Car Act comes in the wake of an NHTSA study that details the failures of major rental car companies to fix safety recall issues before renting their vehicles. NHTSA examined the percentage of dozens of GM and Chrysler vehicles in rental car fleets that had been fixed within 90 days of 10 different recall notices from 2006 to 2010. Automakers have previously told the federal government that rental car companies typically fix less than a third of recalled vehicles within a month of the recall and, over the course of a year, that number climbs to just 50%. According to the audit only 34% of Hertz's rental cars under recall had been fixed within 90 days. Avis/Budget had only fixed 53% of the cars under recall during the same time period, and Enterprise, the top performing member of the group, had only addressed recall notices in 65% of their cars after 90 days. The study suggests that tens of thousands of rental car drivers have unknowingly rented vehicles under recall, posing a serious threat to safety on roadways.
Unfortunately, the consequences of renting vehicles under safety recall have already proven tragic. Raechel and Jacquie Houck, sisters from California, rented a Chrysler PT Cruiser from Enterprise. One month before it was rented to the Houcks, the car had been recalled because a possible leakage of power steering fluid could result in a fire under the hood of the car. Enterprise failed to address the safety recall, and the Houck sisters were killed when their rental car caught fire and slammed into an oncoming semi-tractor trailer. The victim's mother, Cally Houck, sued Enterprise and was eventually awarded $15 million when the company admitted negligence.
"I welcome a bill that would prevent the sort of tragedy that took my daughters' lives," said Cally Houck. "No other family should have to endure the heartbreaking loss of loved ones because of an unsafe rental car." Schumer's Safe Rental Car Act will keep unsafe rental cars off of New York City and Long Island's 183 rental car company lots.