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Raechel and Jacqueline Houck (Credit: Houck Family).
Bowing to pressure from consumers and advocacy groups, major car rental companies have agreed to end the practice of renting cars that have been recalled for safety problems and are supporting legislation that will end the practice.

Enterprise Holdings, which had been pushing back against legislation, said customers emailed and called the company asking Enterprise to back the bill.

Consumer pressure "made us reconsider our position," said Laura Bryant, communications director for Enterprise. "We thought federal regulation and oversight was not needed ... The consumers told us they would be more comfortable with greater oversight."

It was a car rented from Enterprise that ignited the movement that led to the legislation. In 2004, two sisters, Raechel and Jacqueline Houck, were driving in a rented Chrysler PT Cruiser when they lost control of the car and slammed into an 18-wheeler. They died at the scene.

The PT Cruiser, which they'd rented to take a trip home to visit their mom, Cally, had been recalled for problems with a hose that carried steering fluid. The fluid could leak, leaving drivers unable to control their cars.

The Houck family didn't know they car had been recalled until weeks after the accident. A loophole in recall laws allowed rental car companies to keep recalled cars in their fleets, without repairs, indefinitely.

Legislators will introduce a revised version of the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act to the Senate by the end of the year that would keep recalled rental cars off the road. It's taken two years for Sen. Barbara Boxer and Sen. Chuck Schumer to get the majority of the rental car industry on board. As of Thursday, the bill has the backing of all four major rental companies – Enterprise, which owns National and Alamo, Hertz/Advantage, Avis/Budget and Dollar/Thrifty, according to a statement released by Sen. Barbara Boxer. Those companies comprise 93 percent of the rental car market.

The bill was called a "major win for safety on our roadways and in our communities" by NHTSA administrator David Strickland.

Although the companies have agreed to keep recalled cars in the garage, until the law passes, there is nothing prohibiting them from renting those cars to consumers.

"Believe it or not, it's still not against the law to rent a car with a serious defect," Schumer said on a conference call to discuss the new bill. "When consumers go to the rental car counter, they shouldn't have to worry about what they're getting. Today we are solving this major loophole in the law once and for all."

Schumer said he hopes the bill will pass during the end-of-year lame duck session following the November elections.

"I remain very hopeful and optimistic" that the legislation will pass, Cally Houck, Raechel and Jacqueline's mother, told AOL Autos. "But it's not done yet ... I remain a bit cynical, based on my history lobbying for this issue. But we do have a consensus of all the industry's major players."

The rental companies had argued that they already have, in the past few years, put policies in place that keep recalled cars off the road. Rich Broome, senior vice president of communications at Hertz, said recalled cars are flagged in the computer system as recalled and are taken out of the pool of eligible rental cars. Any employee who rents a recalled car could be fired, he said.

Enterprise also has a similar practice in place, said Bryant, which led the company to believe it didn't need any oversight from the government to keep its customers safe.

"At some point, you realize that if this is what your customers want, you need to deliver," she said.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 448 Comments
      • 2 Years Ago
      horrible companys to ever let bad cars rented ever never period=this is so sad all u companies are horrible and not safe =u are more craftyer and wicked than the street life==great shame to u for these 2 sister deaths=u no better to rent a bad car out to people who are so innocent=shame shame great shame unberable shame =u are period very wicked=u caused the death of these precious 2 sisters=i conceder ur companies to be premeditated first degree murders=this mother should be recompenced to the full weight of the law =u should be charged with 2 first degree murder of innocent children=and many years in prison as far as the law can imprison u and all the C>E>O>s responcable for these 2 girls death=u full well know to keep american people in full safety
      EricS
      • 2 Years Ago
      Is that what was investigated? That a power steering fluid leak caused the car to be uncontrollable? I've had a couple of power steering fluid leaks on two different cars, and I never had any issues with loss of control. The only difficult thing is when your driving very slow or at a stand still, the steering is very hard. But once you start moving, it's completely drivable. It's like driving those older cars that didn't have power steering. Sure recalls should be taken seriously, like for break lines, transmission, engine, even steering. But that would be for something wrong with the steering column, and/or rack and pinion. These problems would cause the steering to cease completely, not being able to control the car, or even steer. Not a power steering fluid leak. There must be more to this story.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @EricS
        Yes, someone else is always to blame. I recently had an issue with my power steering that made it more difficult to u-turn. But other than a nuisance, it wasn't a big deal. It definitely wouldn't make a difference in regards to whether an accident occurred.
        redmond352
        • 2 Years Ago
        @EricS
        I think it is pretty clear that if someone is driving a car that has normal power steering and then suddenly the steering characteristics have altered radically and turning the wheel is much harder, this might cause them to lose control. Perhaps you or I would not lose control---I've driven cars with leaky power steering fluid and I know what it feels like---but some people might panic into making an unsafe move. It may not be the biggest problem you could have, but it is certainly serious enough to cause an accident.
      kesac
      • 2 Years Ago
      Liability is one very great deterrent to a rental car company renting, or selling a car under recall. The recall probably did not contribute one iota to this accident, but Enterprise is going to pay millions, for allowing even that possibility to have ocurred.
      Larry Berglof
      • 2 Years Ago
      What's "steering wheel fluid?"
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Larry Berglof
        Power Steering Fluid
      liemc
      • 2 Years Ago
      Did it also lose brake fluid? I agree not enough facts to make an opinion.
      • 2 Years Ago
      horrible companys to ever let bad cars rented ever never period=this is so sad all u companies are horrible and not safe =u are more craftyer and wicked than the street life==great shame to u for these 2 sister deaths=u no better to rent a bad car out to people who are so innocent=shame shame great shame unberable shame =u are period very wicked=u caused the death of these precious 2 sisters=i conceder ur companies to be premeditated first degree murders=this mother should be recompenced to the full weight of the law =u should be charged with 2 first degree murder of innocent children=and many years in prison as far as the law can imprison u and all the C>E>O>s responcable for these 2 girls death=u full well know to keep american people in full safety
      • 2 Years Ago
      To all car companies who will rent a car that is not in tip-top shape, should we say something you might let your son or daughter drive. I just happen to come across this when I saw this in the mail. It is so slack the way everything in this country is done this way, as long as it can't happen to mine anybody else is okay. This country should sit up and take notice about each and every person. My heart goes out to anyone who has lost someone in this situation.
      • 2 Years Ago
      horrible companys to ever let bad cars rented ever never period=this is so sad all u companies are horrible and not safe =u are more craftyer and wicked than the street life==great shame to u for these 2 sister deaths=u no better to rent a bad car out to people who are so innocent=shame shame great shame unberable shame =u are period very wicked=u caused the death of these precious 2 sisters=i conceder ur companies to be premeditated first degree murders=this mother should be recompenced to the full weight of the law =u should be charged with 2 first degree murder of innocent children=and many years in prison as far as the law can imprison u and all the C>E>O>s responcable for these 2 girls death=u full well know to keep american people in full safety
      • 2 Years Ago
      horrible companys to ever let bad cars rented ever never period=this is so sad all u companies are horrible and not safe =u are more craftyer and wicked than the street life==great shame to u for these 2 sister deaths=u no better to rent a bad car out to people who are so innocent=shame shame great shame unberable shame =u are period very wicked=u caused the death of these precious 2 sisters=i conceder ur companies to be premeditated first degree murders=this mother should be recompenced to the full weight of the law =u should be charged with 2 first degree murder of innocent children=and many years in prison as far as the law can imprison u and all the C>E>O>s responcable for these 2 girls death=u full well know to keep american people in full safety
      • 2 Years Ago
      To all car companies who will rent a car that is not in tip-top shape, should we say something you might let your son or daughter drive. I just happen to come across this when I saw this in the mail. It is so slack the way everything in this country is done this way, as long as it can't happen to mine anybody else is okay. This country should sit up and take notice about each and every person. My heart goes out to anyone who has lost someone in this situation.
      Robert
      • 2 Years Ago
      So did they actually prove that the recall problem with the power steering was the cause of the accident or that the accident occured and the car just happened to have a recall open on it?
      Linda B
      • 2 Years Ago
      After all the years my husband drove rental cars in his job, I am appalled to learn he could have been in harm's way for weeks and months at a time. What are the rental companies thinking? I will never rent another car without seeing a maintenance sheet.
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