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CU Supports DMV Notice of Recalled Vehicles in California

Removing unsafe vehicles from our roadways is a national priority. Traffic crashes on our nation’s highways kill approximately 42,000 people each year. They are the primary cause of paraplegia, a major cause of epilepsy, and the number one killer of Americans under age 34. The economic loss to society because of these crashes, in terms of worker productivity, medical costs, and insurance costs is estimated at more than $150 billion annually.
The California Legislature is considering a bill, SB 144 (authored by Senator Debra Bowen), that would require the California Department of Motor Vehicles to notify owners on their annual DMV registration notice if their vehicle has been subject to a manufacturer’s recall. We believe that giving consumers one reminder that their vehicle has been deemed defective and is potentially dangerous on the road could save lives.

March 9, 2005
Honorable Tom Torlakson, Chair
Senate Transportation Committee
California State Senate
P.O. Box 942848
Sacramento, CA 94248-0001
RE: SUPPORT for SB 114 (Bowen): Vehicle Safety Recalls
Dear Senator Torlakson:
Consumers Union, nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, urges your support of SB 114 (Bowen) when it is heard in your committee soon. SB 114 is a common sense measure that ensures that owners of recalled vehicles are notified so that they can take the necessary steps to protect themselves and their families from injury. The measure provides that consumers will be notified if their car has been subject to a manufacturer’s recall through their Department of Motor Vehicle renewal notice, in much the same way that notice is given in California regarding non-compliance with emissions standards.
Another important benefit of SB 114 is that recall notices would be sent to subsequent owners of unsafe vehicles, who otherwise may not receive any notice at all that their vehicle is unsafe, and may not know that they can obtain a free repair under a federally mandated safety recall program.
Many consumers are often not in a position to know if their vehicle has been recalled. Sometimes owners simply do not receive the recall information. But even if they do, the notice may appear to be junk mail. Since under SB 114, the notice would arrive from the DMV, we believe it is likely to receive greater attention and result in higher compliance with safety recalls, saving lives and preventing injuries. The measure will also reduce costs to consumers who do not realize that the manufacturer is obligated to pay for these repairs, and who might otherwise pay out-of-pocket to get their vehicle fixed.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for all Americans from ages 1 through 34. They are also the leading cause of debilitating injuries, including traumatic brain injury and paralysis. The human toll exacted on traffic crash victims and their families is beyond calculation. From an economic standpoint, the collective price tag of auto crashes is staggering—in 2000 alone, nearly $231 billion to cover the costs of that year’s approximately 42,000 traffic deaths, 5.3 million injuries, and 28 million damaged vehicles.
We strongly urge your support for this sensible public notice, consumer safety measure. Please vote AYE on SB 114.
Elisa Odabashian
Senior Policy Analyst
Cc: Senate Transportation Committee