When Jewel Brangman drove off in her rental car in San Diego last August, she made the assumption – as most of us do – that the vehicle she was driving was safe. But it was literally a ticking time bomb.
Days later during a crash, the driver’s side airbag in the 2001 Honda Civic exploded, showering her with shrapnel and killing her at the age of 26.
Her death could have been prevented if either the used car dealer that sold the vehicle to the rental agency, or the rental agency, had been required to check the car’s VIN number for any open recalls and make any necessary repairs before handing over the keys. The airbags in Jewel’s rental had been under a highly publicized recall since 2009.
Bills have been introduced in Congress that would require both rental and used car companies to perform recall repairs and replacements to vehicles in their inventories. Given that millions of Americans are driving vehicles right now that are affected by major recalls – Takata airbags, Toyota accelerator pedals, GM ignition switches and headlights, Jeep fires, Chrysler’s hackable software, to name a few – these bills need to quickly become law.
Rental Car Act Can Rein-In Companies’ Recall Risk-Taking
New car dealers are prohibited by law from selling vehicles with open recalls. However, rental companies aren’t under this restriction. Although some rental companies have announced they will voluntarily park all vehicles under open recall until they are repaired, others have not and others won’t say. It’s hard at this point for a consumer to tell which companies are looking out for their safety and which just want to turn over rentals quickly and safety be damned. The good news is last September the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act of 2013 was introduced. It would require that rental fleets comply with recall notices. But it hasn’t passed yet. If you would like to offer support for the act, GovTrack provides an easy link so you can weigh in.
Safety Act Can Bring Used Car Dealers into Compliance
The Motor Vehicle Safety Act introduced last month would require that used car dealers fix cars under recall before selling them. The bill also would require authorized car dealers to check for open recalls when a car is brought in for any service.
Consumers Can Do Their Own Safety Checks
While you wait for better protection from the laws governing car rental and used car companies, you can do your own checking on the recall status of a vehicle you are about to rent or buy. Enter the car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) at SaferCar.gov to see if a particular vehicle is under a recall. Or, you can simply search by vehicle make and model on the same website to get information on general recalls.