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Call Kurtis: Rental Car Recall

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Eight-time Emmy Award winner Kurtis Ming is CBS13's consumer...
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A California mother made an emotional plea at the State Capitol after losing her two daughters to a horrific crash blamed on a recalled vehicle.  Cally Houck lost her two daughters, 24-year-old Raechel and 20-year-old Jacqueline near Kings City in Central California in 2004.  They lost control of the Chrysler PT Cruiser they had rented.

“Raechel’s steering ability was lost, and they veered into oncoming traffic and hit an 18-wheeler head on,” says Cally.

That car from Enterprise was part of an open safety recall for a steering defect.  It had not been fixed.

“I think it’s an important consumer issue that’s been long overlooked,” says Cally.

Cally was at the state capitol Wednesday, surrounded by consumer advocates, asking lawmakers to make it illegal to rent out recalled cars, until they’re fixed.

“Had this bill been in place, I wouldn’t be here, but my daughters would be,” says Cally.

Even after her daughter’s deaths, during a recent investigation CBS News managed to rent a 2010 Chevy Cobalt from Avis in Boston.  It had been recalled for a steering problem, and it also had not been fixed.

“It costs them nothing to fix the problem.  It only requires that they take the car out of the fleet long enough to fix the problem for free,” says Elisa Odabashian, of the Consumers Union.

But the rental car industry thinks some recalled cars are still safe to drive.  The American Car Rental Association believes recall notices should say if a car is too dangerous to drive.

In a March 6th, 2010 press release, the Association says, “Such notices rarely provide clear guidance as to whether the vehicle can continue to be operated.”

“There’s only one reason why the vehicles are under a safety recall and that’s because they’re unsafe,” says Rosemary Shahan of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety.

A California court awarded Cally’s family a $15 million judgment last year against Enterprise.  Her mission now is to save others so her daughters didn’t die in vain.

“I know they’re up there saying, ‘Mom, you got to do something about this because we didn’t want to die,'” says Cally.

When you rent a car, ask the agent if there are any safety recalls on the car you’re renting.  Using the Vehicle Identification Number on the car, they can check their computer database to find out.  If you’re still weary, you can call the car manufacturer and they’ll tell you if that car has been recalled and if it’s been fixed.

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