Senator Boxer Praises Committee Passage of Legislation to Ensure Safety of America's Rental Car Customers

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today praised the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation’s passage of the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act of 2013, 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.

Senator Boxer is a lead sponsor of the bipartisan measure along with Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO). The bill passed the committee by a unanimous voice vote.

The legislation is 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 since joined with consumer groups in support of the 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.

“Today the Commerce Committee paid tribute to two of my California constituents who lost their lives in a senseless tragedy by passing the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act,” Senator Boxer said. “This bill will protect our families by keeping vehicles under safety recall off our roads, and I will be working hard to ensure its passage by the full Senate.”

“If this bill had been in effect when my daughters rented that recalled car, they would still be alive today,” said Cally Houck. “No other parents should have to suffer such a horrific loss because a rental car company hasn’t bothered to get an unsafe recalled car repaired.”

“We’re one major step closer to putting an end to ‘recalled rental car roulette,’ ” added Rosemary Shahan, President of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety.

The legislation is supported by all of the major car rental companies – Hertz, Enterprise, Avis Budget and Dollar Thrifty – as well as 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.

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