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Mom speaks in support of California rental-car recall bill

July 2, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A mother spoke out Tuesday in support of a bill that would keep rental cars with recalls off the road. Nearly four years ago, her family members were killed in a loaned-out Lexus.

Fe Lastrella is demanding action after a crash killed four of her loved ones in 2009. The accident has become the center of a bill that would prohibit car dealers from renting out vehicles under safety recall.

"Beyond words, and beyond measure, we lost our beloved children and grandchild," said Lastrella.

Lastrella's son was a passenger in an out-of-control Lexus that had an accelerator stuck at 120 mph when he made a chilling 911 call just before the crash in August 2009 near San Diego. The crash killed all four people inside, including off-duty CHP Officer Mark Saylor, who was married to Lastrella's daughter.

The still-grieving mother wants California lawmakers to do something.

"My family's lives and the Saylors' lives were altered forever," said Lastrella.

It turned out that Saylor was driving a 2009 Lexus the dealership had loaned him while his own vehicle was being serviced. That stuck accelerator played a pivotal role in forcing Toyota to recall millions of cars with the same problem.

While federal law bans franchised car dealers from selling or leasing a new car that's under a safety recall, nothing stops them from loaning, renting or selling used cars where the repairs named in the recall haven't been done.

State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) is leading the charge with a proposal to fix that.

"They shouldn't be on the road, especially if we know they're unsafe," said Jackson.

The California New Car Dealers Association, though, opposes the bill. It says the federal government is coming out with guidelines next week and wants California to wait to see if this law is even necessary. The organization also points out the proposal is too broad because a recall doesn't always mean safety is compromised.

"The question becomes whether we should remove the vehicle out of the stream of commerce because of a door jam sticker being mislabeled, because an owner's manual has been misprinted," said Cliff Costa with the CNCDA.

Critics also pointed out the proposal would not have helped the Saylors and Lastrellas because Toyota had not recalled that Lexus yet, as the sticky accelerators were still an emerging issue back then.

Sensing tepid support that could kill the bill, the committee postponed the vote, clearly upsetting Lastrella.

"As a mother and grandmother, I cannot comprehend why anyone would oppose this bill," said Lastrella.

The measure now becomes a two-year bill, which means it's on hold until January.


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