Vacation season is in full swing! For those of us who are traveling long distances, we often rent a car once we get to our destination. But how do we know that a rental car is safe? Your BBB® has learned of a new law that helps make rental cars safer.
In a Press Release dated June 1, 2016, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that effective immediately “rental car agencies must fix any and all open safety defects before renting out vehicles to customers.” The new law was recently passed by Congress and was included in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015. U.S. Transportation Secretary, Anthony Foxx, stated, “When a family picks up a rental car on vacation, they should be able to expect it is free of any known safety defect. I thank Congress and the safety advocates who helped turn this common-sense idea into law.”
The new law, PUBLIC LAW 114-94—DEC. 4, 2015, prohibits any company or dealer with fleets larger than 35 vehicles to rent unrepaired recalled vehicles. It gives NHTSA recall authority over rental car companies for the first time with the power to investigate and punish violators.
The section of the 490-page legislation that deals with rental car safety (Section 24109 beginning on page 395) is also known as the “Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act of 2015.” According to an Alert Driving News Report, Raechel and Jacqueline were sisters who rented a 2004 Chrysler PT Cruiser in 2004 after Chrysler sent out safety recall notices for 435,000 PT Cruisers because the power steering hose could leak and result in a fire. As the sisters were driving home, the car crossed the median and hit a big rig and burst into flames. Both women were killed. Rental agency records showed that the PT Cruiser in which the Houck sisters died had not been repaired, that it had been rented four times since the recall, and that the Houcks were the fourth renters of the vehicle since the recall. Experts concluded that Raechel, who was driving, lost steering ability because of a power-steering fluid leak. Raechel and Jacqueline’s parents worked tirelessly to help get the Safe Rental Car legislation included in the FAST Act.
NHTSA Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind said in the Press Release, “This law gives NHTSA one more tool to protect the safety of U.S. motorists. It’s critical that every recalled vehicle, whether new, used, rented or leased, is repaired as soon as possible. Rental agencies operate some of the largest fleets, so this law will go a long way in ensuring the cars and trucks on the road are safe.”
Don’t know if there’s a recall involving your vehicle? NHTSA has a free Recall Look-up Tool at www.safercar.gov/CheckForRecalls.
Drivers can also sign up for free recall alerts at www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/subscriptions/index.cfm.
Your BBB wishes all of our readers safe travels this summer vacation season, and for more information you can trust, visit bbb.org/evansville.