Legislators poised to vote on rental car recall bill

April 20, 2011 6:00:40 PM PDT
You may soon feel safer in your next rental car. State lawmakers are moving forward on a bill that would require rental companies to pull all recalled vehicles off the road for repairs.

It was a horrific crash in Santa Cruz back in 2004. Raechel and Jacqueline Houck rented a car to visit their mom in Ventura County when their PT Cruiser caught on fire and crashed, killing them. The rental car was on a safety recall list for a power steering hose defect.

"As a result of their drive for profit and their disregard for consumer safety, they continued to rent out recalled cars prior to giving them a fix," said the victims' mother, Cally Houck.

Just as Californians are planning summer vacations, the California Assembly is poised to vote on a bill, named after the two young women, barring companies from renting out vehicles recalled for safety reasons.

"When there's a safety recall, the manufacturer agrees that the car is really unsafe and they voluntarily comply with the mandate," said Rosemary Shahan of Consumers for Auto Reliability & Safety. "At that point, it's game over."

The car rental industry opposes the bill. It points out the Houcks' accident was nearly seven years ago and substantial improvements have been made in the way recalls are handled.

The companies also say it's not fair to single them out when other fleets such as taxi and limo services aren't included.

In a recent letter to lawmakers, lobbyists for the biggest rental companies said, "We believe a permanent and meaningful solution is for the federal government to improve its recall notification procedures."

Anthony Carrillo of Orange County was surprised to hear he could have rented a recalled car during any one of his numerous business trips.

"I expected they give me a safe car that I can drive and not have any worries about it," he said.

Houck doesn't want anyone else to worry and is fighting in her daughter's memory to change the way car companies do business.

"We're trying to avoid another family from going through this," she said.


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