Paving The Road With Good Intentions Is Not Nearly Enough: The Repairing Every Car to Avoid Lost Lives Act
Our automotive recall system is undoubtedly broken. Car companies take too long to recall. They do not notify everyone, especially second- and third-hand purchasers downstream from the initial sale. They do not have enough parts, or even the part needed, to conduct the recall. Dealers are not always so consumer friendly. And, many consumers, often those who have bought into the idea that “every car has some kind of flaw,” do not take the recall seriously and do not take their recalled cars in for repair. As a result, recall compliance rates are often abysmal.
The end result: millions of cars and trucks that are driving around with an outstanding recall notice on them, but the bad parts or defect still in them. Something more clearly has to be done to increase consumer notification efforts and to ensure much higher, if not complete, elimination of the recalled defects. But, what to do?
First, do something!
Second, do the right thing. Do those things that will ensure notification and elimination of defects.
Third, do not do the wrong thing—and do not shift the recall burden from the automotive companies. They made the defective product. Neither the consumer nor the state DMV systems should have to play the central role in an effective recall system. Those systems should not be clogged by millions of incomplete recalls. Nor should consumers be prevented from registering cars with pending recalls, and facing fines for not doing so. All that should be rest squarely on the big shoulders of the car companies.
Unfortunately, the “Repairing Every Car to Avoid Lost Lives” (RECALL) Act, (S. Bill No. 617), does all those bad things, and very few of the good ones. It requires state DMVs to verify that recalls are done, or lose five percent of its federal highway funds. The Act shifts the burden of repairing the cars back to the consumers, or they cannot register their car. Extensions can be granted and there are some registration exemptions, but they do not change the many flaws in the Act.
The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators has come out against the RECALL Act. It observed that the Act:
makes motor vehicle agencies responsible for rectifying the shortcomings of private industry by conditioning customers’ vehicle registration renewal on fixing defective or noncompliant automobiles. This bill shifts the burden and the costs of correcting vehicle defects from the direct responsible party, the manufacturer, to the taxpayers of the individual states, and threatens to withhold federal highway funds from states that do not implement the requirements. States would have to spend significant sums to comply, outlays that will strain already-limited transportation funding and divert highway safety funds from other priority safety programs. Furthermore, the bill assumes the existence of a national, real-time safety recall data base that states could interact with for the most current recall information. No such system exists today.
The Governors’ Highway Safety Association has also come out against the Act. We do not support the Act either, at least in its current form.
Sean Kane, from Strategic Safety Research, Inc., has identified no less than fifteen major problems with the Act. You can read through them at his excellent article at http://www.safetyresearch.net/blog/articles/wrong-fix-broken-recall-system. Those problems directly affect the motorist and the state DMVs.
If you think registering a car is often hard and frustrating now, with just insurance and emission, wait until the RECALL Act passes. It might slow you for months, cost you a great deal more money and heartache, and subject you to fines as you wait for the recalled part to come in to the dealer or automaker—who might then put you in a waiting line with everyone else.
The RECALL Act’s goals are laudable. And so are the Act’s intentions. But we have all heard about roads paved with “good intentions.” More is needed. More thought. More responsibility on the automakers. More thought-out real-world solutions to the problems inherent in the Act.