On December 4, 2015, President Barak Obama signed the Fixing America’s
Surface Transportation (FAST) Act into law. The transportation bill includes
several measures intended to address auto safety recalls.
Most importantly, the law will prohibit the rental of
vehicles with unrepaired safety defects. The provision is a hard fought victory for the mother of Raechel and
Jacqueline Houck, for whom the Safe Rental Car Act was named. The two
young women died in a 2004 California car accident involving a recalled
Enterprise rental car. A month before Enterprise Rent-a-Car rented a PT
Cruiser to Raechel Houck, 24, and her sister Jacqueline, 20, the rental
agency was informed of a serious safety defect—power steering fluid
could leak and ignite under the hood. Because Enterprise failed to remove
the vehicle from its fleet of rental cars, the two sisters later died
in a fiery crash.
The new requirements will apply to rental car companies and dealerships
with a fleet of 35 or more vehicles. While draft legislation imposed the
requirement on those with a fleet only five vehicles, the auto industry
was successful in increasing the threshold. Nonetheless, the new law will
still go a long way to keeping defective vehicles off our roadways.
FAST Act also increases the maximum penalty the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration can impose on auto
manufacturers from $35 million to $105 million. In addition, the law will
significantly increase NHTSA’s funding for its vehicle safety programs.
With regard to increasing the effectiveness of the recall program, the
FAST Act requires the NHTSA to implement a final rule requiring manufacturers
to make electronic notification of recalls to consumers, such as sending
emails or launching social media campaigns. The law also requires the
agency to improve its safercar.gov website so that it is readily accessible
and easy to use.
If you have suffered serious harm due to a dangerous or defective vehicle,
you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries, including payment
of lost wages and medical expenses. We encourage you to contact
a San Diego product liability attorney at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage
for a free consultation.