U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein (both D-CA) today introduced the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act of 2012, legislation that will ensure the safety of America's rental car fleet by preventing rental car companies from renting or selling cars or trucks that are under safety recall.
The two California Senators introduced the legislation named in honor of Raechel and Jacqueline Houck, two sisters from Santa Cruz, ages 24 and 20, who were killed while driving a recalled Chrysler PT Cruiser they had rented from Enterprise in 2004. About a month before the deadly crash, Enterprise received a recall notice that the PT Cruiser had a defective power steering hose that was prone to catching fire and that it would be repaired by Chrysler free-of-charge. Despite the warning, Enterprise did not get the vehicle repaired and rented it out to three other customers before renting it to the Houck sisters. The defect caused the car to catch fire and crash head-on into a tractor-trailer, killing both sisters.
Their mother, Cally Houck, has joined with consumer groups in support of the new legislation, which would close a loophole in safety standards by requiring rental car companies to ground recalled vehicles as soon as they receive a safety recall notice and prohibit them from being rented or sold until they are fixed. Auto-dealers are already subject to these requirements and the bill would simply extend the same requirements to rental car companies.
"We cannot allow another family to go through the pain and loss that Cally and her family have gone through," Senator Boxer said. "We will not rest until Congress has passed legislation that protects American consumers from these unsafe vehicles, and we urge all the rental car companies to join Hertz in committing to the safety of their customers."
Earlier this year, Senator Boxer sent a letter asking the nation's four leading rental car companies -- Enterprise, Hertz, Avis/Budget and Dollar/Thrifty -- to protect consumers from unsafe vehicles by making the following pledge: "Effective immediately, our company is making a permanent commitment to not rent out or sell any vehicles under safety recall until the defect has been remedied."
Of the four companies -- which together control 92 percent of the rental car market -- only Hertz agreed to the pledge in its entirety. Senator Boxer is continuing to urge the companies to take the pledge and fully protect their customers.
The Senate bill is the companion legislation to a bill introduced last month by Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-CA), Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL). The new House and Senate bills are an updated version of legislation introduced last year by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senator Boxer, Senator Feinstein and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).
The new House and Senate legislation is supported by Hertz, Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the Center for Auto Safety, Consumer Action, the Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, the National Association of Consumer Advocates and the Trauma Foundation.