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Call Kurtis: Senate Bill Addressing Recalled Cars Clears First Hurdle, After CBS13 Investigation

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) -- A California Senate Committee advanced a bill that would require car dealerships to fix open recalls before reselling them to consumers -- an issue Call Kurtis first exposed in February.

In front of the committee, LaQuata Williams remembered her scary experience with a minivan she said she was never told had an open recall.

In November, she was driving her 2002 Ford Windstar on the highway, felt a strange rumbling and heard a loud noise she thought was a blowout, she said.

"Before I could get to the side of the road, I spun out of control," she said.

Within seconds, she was dangling upside down -- happy she remembered to fasten her seat belt, she said.

"It's a miracle we weren't severely injured or killed," she said.

Her Windstar had an open recall -- something she didn't know about just three months earlier when a used car dealer sold it to her -- and the axle had completely broken off, she said.

A February Call Kurtis undercover investigation first exposed the issue of cars with open recalls being re-sold on dealership lots without ever being fixed. Now state lawmakers are hoping to pass a law to get those cars fixed before they're sold.

Williams testified about her car crash Tuesday in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, alongside Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, who authored SB 686.

"I just looked at the van and said, 'Oh my God, how did I get out of there?'" Williams said, saying she knew it was her duty to help others avoid the same dangerous circumstances.

"I just looked at the van and said, 'Oh my God, how did I get out of there?'"

In February, our CBS13 Call Kurtis hidden-camera investigation found a dozen recalled cars at the three used car lots we randomly checked in Sacramento.

"Any recall before we bring the car here, we have to get it taken care of," one salesman told our producer.

But he wasn't telling the truth. CBS13 found several recalled cars on his lot.

"Did you know this car right here is potentially dangerous? It's got a couple recalls on it." consumer investigator Kurtis Ming said.
"Oh does it?" the dealer said.

A Carfax study found more than 2.1 million used cars listed for sale online in 2012 had at least one unfixed safety recall.

Some used car dealers don't even know how to check for them, CBS13 found.

"How we gonna know the car has a recall?" one owner asked us in our first report.

"Many of us have seen the news reports about this," Sen. Jackson told her Judiciary Committee Tuesday, hoping to advance a bill that would force dealers to fix recalled cars before selling them.

Sen. Jackson said it's as simple as picking up the phone or going online to find out if a car has an open recall.

"What a notion that one click, one phone call can save lives of people who trust you to sell them a car that's safe," she said.

Industry groups agree recalled cars should be fixed, but they're against this bill, saying there's no federal database to check to see if a particular vehicle has an open recall.

They also said information from manufacturers websites, or even over the phone, isn't always accurate.

"The potential liabilities [are] endless," said Brian Maas of the California New Car Dealers Association.

Williams walked away from her crash and is glad her family wasn't in the van.

Without this law, she's concerned others won't be so fortunate.

"It's about safety," she said.

A similar bill, AB 964, passed its first hurdle in the Assembly today.

A representative for the car dealers industry pointed out an estimated 65 percent of car sales are between private parties, and SB 686 would not apply to them.

CBS13 has compiled a list of resources to check your vehicles for open recalls. Visit our Open Recall Center.

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