Sen. Lott Pushes Act to Identify Storm-Totaled Vehicles

December 11, 2006

Congress needs to enact legislation to protect car buyers and those who travel the nation’s highways from unsafe vehicles that were once totaled in Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters, Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., said Thursday.

Lott, joined at a Washington news conference by Reps. Cliff Sterns, R-Fla., and Charlie Melancon, D-La., said the proposed “Consumer Access to Total Loss Vehicle Data Act” would make available to consumers information about automobiles declared a total loss by insurance companies.

The legislation directs the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to require all insurers to commercially disclose information pertaining to total loss vehicles, perhaps through such online auto services as CAR-FAX, he said.

“After Hurricane Katrina, I was approached by responsible auto dealers in Mississippi who were concerned about flooded vehicles ending up in the marketplace,” Lott said in a statement. “An estimated half-million vehicles were damaged by Katrina, and indeed there is evidence that these cars are being cleaned up and sold to unsuspecting consumers.”

A number of these vehicles are unsafe and shouldn’t be on the roads, he said. “And folks are overpaying for vehicles they believe are mechanically sound. To the untrained eye, they appear to be in good shape.”

Lott said consumers should not have to rely on the various states titling processes because each state is different. He said the branding information often is not passed from one state to the next.

When an insurance company declares a car totaled, the insurer assumes the title.

“The insurance industry should make this information available to protect the consumers, and we will be working to enact that protection in the 110th Congress,” he said.

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