Legislation that that took effect last week should make most rentals safer. However, some companies still can ignore the law.
Driving and riding in a rental car just became safer.
A new federal law that took effect last week requires rental car companies to address any federal safety recalls affecting their vehicles before they rent or sell the affected cars.
This new law is also known as the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act of 2015. It was passed last year as part of a larger transportation bill that President Barack Obama signed off on in December.
The American Car Rental Association, a trade association representing 98 percent of the domestic car rental industry, has supported the Houck Safe Rental Car Act.
Joe Knight, president of ACRA and executive vice president of Fox Rent A Car, explained in December:
“Customer safety is a critical part of our overall commitment to our customers and the general public. And because rental vehicles travel freely across state lines in interstate commerce, ACRA has always strongly supported one federal rental vehicle safety recall standard rather than a patchwork of potentially conflicting state laws.”
Prior to the Houck Safe Rental Car Act taking effect, federal law contained what Democratic U.S. Rep. Lois Capps of California last year described as “a glaring safety gap” that “allow[s] recalled cars to be rented without being repaired.” Capps introduced the bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The legislation is named after Raechel and Jacqueline Houck, who were killed in California when their rented Chrysler PT Cruiser crashed and caught fire as a result of a safety defect for which a recall had been issued.
According to a CNN report, smoke poured into the cabin and Rachel Houck lost control of the car, which then crashed head-on into a semitrailer truck, killing her and her sister instantly.
The young women’s mother, Cally Houck, told CNN last week:
“We were shocked that there was no regulation to prohibit renting out this kind of vehicle.”
The new law does not apply to rental companies whose fleets comprise 35 or more vehicles. Initially, the proposed legislation had an exclusion that was supposed to apply only to companies with fleets of five or fewer vehicles.
ACRA supported the narrower exclusion and said in December that it would “continue to work for coverage of all rental cars across the nation under the provisions of the Act.”
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