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Sisters Happily Take Free Upgrade From Car Rental Company, Don't Realize Mistake Until It's Too Late

A new consumer safety law passed in 2015 requiring car rental companies to fix recalled vehicles before renting them out to customers was officially put into effect on June 1. The law was passed in honor of Raechel and Jacqueline Houck, two sisters who died in a horrific car crash in 2004.

The legislation, which makes it illegal for car dealers to rent out cars that have been recalled without repairing them, was proposed in response to several deadly incidents involving defective rental cars that had been the subject of a recall but never fixed, CNN reported.

The law was a result of a decade-long effort by California woman Cally Houck, the mother of the two young women who perished after their rented PT Cruiser swerved across a highway median and collided with an oncoming semi-tractor trailer in October 2004. 

Cally's daughters Raechel, 24, and Jacqueline, 20, had just visited their family in Ojai, California, before leaving in their rented car with Raechel behind the wheel, according to the Los Ageles Times. The women were reportedly driving five hours to Santa Cruz, California, to see friends.

As they were traveling along Highway 101 near Bradley, California, thick black smoke suddenly poured from the steering wheel and filled the cabin of the car, causing Raechel to lose control of the vehicle and swerve into the opposite lane, where the sisters crashed into the oncoming trailer. Both women were killed instantly.   

The young women's parents later discovered that the PT Cruiser that they had rented from an Enterprise car rental facility had been recalled a month beforehand due to a faulty power steering hose that could potentially catch on fire and lead to a loss of steering. The rental company, however, ignored the warning and rented out the model several times in the month following the recall without making the necessary repairs.

According to Mad World News, the sisters had initially chosen a different vehicle before being offered an upgrade to the PT Cruiser. 

The Houck parents, who won a $15 million lawsuit against the Enterprise car rental company in 2010, lobbied Congress to pass legislation that would help prevent future accidents like the one that took their daughters' lives.

In 2012, Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York proposed the first version of the bill that would eventually become the Houck Act, with the backing of Democratic California senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein.

After many delays and resistance from the car rental industry, the Houck Act was finally passed by Congress as part of a federal transportation funding bill in 2015, CNN reported.

Although most large car-rental companies are complying with the law, the legislation exempts smaller companies with fewer than 35 rental vehicles, according to CNN. The Houks are currently fighting to remove the exemption, as well as to expand the law to used car sales. 

Sources: CNNLos Angeles TimesMad World News Photo credit: Los Angeles Times

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