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Car rental agencies and vehicles under safety recalls

Sen. Charles Schumer of New York and and Sen. Barbara Boxer of California have announced the introduction of The Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act  which would make it illegal for rental car agencies to rent cars that are subject to recall notices.

According to data collected from the rental car companies to USA TODAY, of the 1.6 million vehicles in U.S. rental car fleets, hundreds of thousands are recalled annually for safety problems.  While the National Highway Safety and Transportation Administration has jurisdiction over auto manufacturers and safety recalls, they have no oversight over rental car companies. This creates an environment where recalled vehicles could be kept on the road and continued to be rented within a rental agency’s fleet without oversight.  The new bill seeks to rectify that.

The NHTSA studied 10 General Motors and Chrysler recalls between June 2006 and July 2010. They found that Enterprise had fixed an average of 65 percent of recalled vehicles within 90 days of the recall, Avis/Budget had fixed 53 percent, and Hertz had only fixed 34 percent of the recalled cars.

The name of the bill stems from the tragic deaths of  Raechel Houck, 24, and her sister Jacqueline, 20, who had rented a PT Cruiser from Enterprise Rent-A-Car when the vehicle had been under recall for a power-steering problem, but had not been repaired. The vehicle had been rented at least three times before the Houck’s rental agreement. The power steering fluid leaked and then ignited. Once the car caught fire, Raechel lost her ability to control the car and it struck an 18-wheeler and burst into flames on impact.  Car dealers are required by federal law not to sell vehicles under safety recalls until fixed. The bill is intended to require the same requirements for rental agencies.

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