A driver just narrowly missed getting into an accident when her car suddenly stopped on a Las Vegas interstate. Now, her story is opening up a conversation about devices placed in cars by lenders that allow them to turn off the vehicle if the driver misses a payment.
The device is called a Starter Interrupt Device, and while driving in 2012, T. Candice Smith’s car was suddenly shut off on a busy interstate highway. The 31-year-old wasn’t aware at the time that her car was equipped with one of the devices, and her lender had cut her engine off because she had missed a payment. Smith was almost involved in an accident when her engine turned off, and she and a friend had to push it quickly off the highway.
“I felt like even though I made my payments and was never late under my contract, these people could do whatever they wanted and there was nothing I could do to stop them,” said Smith to the New York Times.
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The device generally emits flashing lights and makes beeping noises before shutting the car off completely. Reports say that more than two million vehicles have the devices installed, and most lenders put them in the cars of people with scores of 640 or less. David Sailors, executive vice president of Lender Systems Inc., says that the controversial device is important in helping remind borrowers of their payments.
“We want to help [borrowers] get on their feet,” Sailors said. “but sometimes it does require a very consistent reminder and in some cases the disablement of the start of their vehicle if they haven't made their payment on time.”
Smith says she felt “helpless” when her car suddenly turned off on the highway, however, and she recently testified before the Nevada Legislature about the issue.