There have been an unprecedented number of recalls issued in the past few years for motor vehicles sold and driven in the United States. In 2014 and 2015 alone, over 100 MILLION cars were recalled for serious defects. See, “2015 Was Another Record Year for Vehicle Recalls,” published by Consumerist.
Dangerous defects in popular cars and SUVs can cause the drivers and passengers in that vehicle to be seriously injured or killed in a car crash. Like the failure of Takata air bags to work in an accident.
However, there is an even scarier risk out there for folk driving on the roads of Illinois and Indiana: the recall defects that cause accidents and crashes when they fail to work properly. Recalls like the faulty ignition switch can mean a driver loses control of a fast-moving vehicle and a potentially fatal accident involving several vehicles is the result.
Innocent victims who share the roads with these defective cars are hurt or killed, too.
Recalled Cars With Known Defects Can Cause Fatal Accidents in Indiana and Illinois
Sure, there are recall laws and agencies out there that monitor this problem, like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Here’s the thing: recalls may have been issued, but that does NOT mean that all the recalled products have been fixed.
1. Used Cars for Sale With Unfixed Recall Defects
This is particularly true when someone buys a pre-owned or used car. Even from popular dealers like CarMax. Car makers are legally mandated to send a written notice of any recall to the owner that is registered with them. If the car has been sold, that person is no longer the owner of the car, truck, SUV, or minivan. There’s no law that requires the seller of a motor vehicle to forward the recall notice to the new buyer. The buyer of any used car often never receives the recall notice.
In fact, Carfax reports that there were several million cars and trucks on the roads with unrepaired recall defects advertised for sale online. (Carfax is an online seller of vehicle history records.)
“Many of these cars change hands without the buyer ever knowing a recall exists, increasing the safety risks both to passengers in the car and others on the road. We all need to do our part to make sure these cars are identified and fixed – buyers, sellers and owners alike. A simple online check for open recalls is all it takes to help make our roads safer.”
There are lots of people who think that buying a used car is a smart idea, financially. You buy a car that is relatively new, say a year or two old, and avoid all that asset depreciation that jumps up to grab you the minute you drive off of a new car lot. That’s true. However, there’s no guarantee you aren’t driving off in a used car that is flawed and dangerous.
And those who share the roads with you clearly will have no knowledge of the dangers they are facing by sharing the road with an unrepaired recall.
2. Rental Cars With Unrepaired Recall Defects
Even more shocking than used car dealers selling dangerous, unrecalled cars to unsuspecting buyers are rental car companies who feel free to rent unrepaired recalled vehicles to their customers. This practice is so widespread, and obviously acceptable within the rental car industry, that Congress has just passed a federal law to try and stop them from doing it.
(Remember that passing a law is one thing, getting these companies to abide by that law is another. If car makers abided by the federal safety standards in the first place, we wouldn’t have a recall problem.)
The Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act
For several years now, legislators have been trying to get a new federal law passed that would force rental car companies to check their vehicles for recalls and insure that they were fixed before the cars were rented out. The proposed legislation, which has been moving through the Senate since 2011 and on through the 2015 Legislative Session, is called the “The Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act.” You can read the details of its progress online here.
The law is named after two young women, sisters Raechel and Jacqueline, who died in a semi-truck crash after their rented Chrysler PT Cruiser crossed over a median and slammed into the 18-wheeler.
Both sisters were killed instantly. Raechel had rented the car from Enterprise Rent-a-Car. Only one month before she drove the PT Cruiser off their lot, Chrysler had mailed out almost a half-million notices for defects in its 2002-2005 PT Cruisers. The defect? The power steering hoses in these vehicle could leak, and the liquid could ignite with the PT Cruiser bursting in flames while the driver was driving it.
There was a big legal fight, of course. Enterprise even had the gall to argue that Raechel was suicidal and intentionally drove the PT Cruiser into the big rig. However, justice prevailed. Enterprise ultimately admitted it was at fault, and after a jury trial, the rental car company was liable to the girls’ grieving parents on the wrongful death claims for $15,000,000.
In December 2015, as part of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015, this law has been passed. Finally.
The Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act is part of the new federal FAST Act. Now, it is a federal law that rental car companies cannot put a rental car out for use by a customer if they have received a recall notice on that vehicle unless the recall has been repaired.
Under the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act, the rental car company has to pull that vehicle out of circulation within 24 hours of getting the recall notice (48 hours for the bigger companies with an inventory exceeding 5000 cars).
Key here: rental car companies with less than 35 cars? They are exempt from this law. They can still rent out defective cars if they want to do so without being in violation of federal law.
Car Recalls Are a Continuing Danger to Indiana and Illinois
Today, there will be people who are in great danger as they drive in Indiana and Illinois because of unrepaired, defective cars being driven on our roads, streets, and highways. Some of those people who are in danger are the drivers of these vehicles — people who are not aware that they are driving a car where the air bag, ignition switch, or steering device might break or malfunction causing them to lose control of their vehicle.
Other folk who are in danger are those who share the roads with these drivers. People driving alongside that used car, or that rental car, with an unrepaired recall defect, are also in danger of a serious accident and perhaps a fatal collision.
Product liability laws are in place to try and get these victims justice in the aftermath. However, we all need to be aware of these risks and the dangers involved in driving our roads today due to recalled vehicles left unrepaired. Be careful out there!