Bill Introduced to Make Car Recall Repairs Mandatory
Senators Ed Markey (Massachusetts) and Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut) have introduced a new bill, called the Repairing Every Car to Avoid Lost Lives (RECALL) Act, which would require the agency in charge of registering vehicles (DMV, Secretary of State office, etc.) to send car owners notices of any open recalls on their vehicles when they send reminders to renew license plates or when they send proof of insurance documentation for new registrations. Car owners would then have to get the recall repairs made before their cars can be registered.
In a statement, Senator Blumenthal said, “Unrepaired safety defects endanger everyone on America’s roadways. Important recall notices can get bogged down in legalese and busy consumers can miss a lifesaving update. This legislation provides a common-sense avenue to ensure every driver is reminded and encouraged to make the necessary repairs and keep unsafe cars off the road.” The Senators believe that since many states can deny registration over failed emissions tests, this would be a logical way to keep cars safe on the road.
The Senators point out that many recall repairs aren’t made because car owners don’t receive recall notices despite several efforts being made or they don’t realize how important a repair is. It’s estimated that about one third of recalled vehicles in the United States are never brought in for the necessary repairs. Newer vehicles are more likely to be brought in for repairs, but many older cars are not, putting drivers at risk.
The RECALL Act is modeled on laws currently in place in Germany. If passed, states that don’t comply with the RECALL Act could lose highway safety funding, much like how they can lose funding if they don’t have strict rules for drunk driving or seat belt enforcement. Exceptions would be made if a car owner wasn’t notified of the recall with the registration renewal notice, the manufacturer didn’t have the parts for the repair available, or there wasn’t a reasonable amount of time to have the repair made. In these cases, owners could be given a temporary 60-day registration.
This isn’t the first time an effort has been made to mandate car recall repairs. In 2012, the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act was introduced, which would have required car rental companies to have repairs made to recalled vehicles. Raechel and Jacqueline Houck were sisters who were killed when a car they rented from Enterprise in 2004 caught fire because of a vehicle defect. The car had been recalled, but Enterprise failed to have the necessary repair made. However, the bill failed to pass.
The introduction of the RECALL Act follows years of large, high-profile automotive recalls involving companies like Takata and General Motors. Since 2008, over 17 million cars have been recalled over defective airbag inflators that have been linked to six deaths and 64 injuries. Honda has voiced support for the proposed RECALL Act.