In 2004, Cally Houck faced the unthinkable when her two daughters--Raechel, 24, and Jacqueline, 20--were both killed in a car accident involving a rental car that was under recall. Now, this mother has rallied more than 135,000 consumers to call on the rental car industry to improve its safety standards, and the federal government to regulate those standards.
Houck is gathering support with an online petition on Change.org that calls out Enterprise Rent-a-Car (the company her daughters rented a PT Cruiser from in 2004) for opposing a law that would prohibit companies from renting cars that are under recall.
"The PT Cruiser they were driving had been recalled a month before for a defective steering component that was prone to catching fire. Enterprise rented it to three other customers before renting it to my daughters, without bothering to fix it first. It was a ticking time bomb," Houck says in her petition.
The agreement adds momentum to an amendment with the same provisions backed by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. The senators hope to include the amendment in a massive surface transportation bill that the Senate expects to address after it reconvenes Feb. 27.
According to data provided by rental companies to USA TODAY, hundreds of thousands of the 1.6 million vehicles in their U.S. fleets are recalled annually for safety problems. Hertz and Enterprise had nearly 184,000 vehicles under recall last year. In 2010, when Toyota announced a massive recall of vehicles with accelerators that could stick, Hertz and Enterprise had 350,000 vehicles — about 22% of the industry's entire fleet — under recall.
Toyota's recall prompted auto-rental companies to develop strict practices to address recalls, says the American Car Rental Association trade group, which represents 105 rental companies.
Image: Car key, via Shutterstock.