California Senator Jenny Oropeza has re-introduced the bill that prohibits the sale or transfer of a total loss salvage vehicle damaged from salt water. The bill is an effort to protect the California consumer, although auto body technicians would benefit due to inherent risks involved with working on these cars
The danger, explained in the text of the bill, stated, “vehicles that have sat in saltwater mixed with sewage can result in health risks. Hurricane floodwaters contain numerous toxins, including, but not limited to, raw sewage, E. coli, petrochemicals, human and animal remains, arsenic, and lead.”
The bill cited an example from February of 2006, when “a firefighter in Mississippi died from septic shock contracted through a scratched finger suffered while extracting a victim from a crashed “Katrina Car.” Accord-ing to the Coordinat-ing Committee for AutomotiveRepair, “flood waters from New Orleans tested at 50 times above the danger level for sepsis toxin, which enters the bloodstream and spreads rapidly from just the tiniest break in the skin.”
The bill was introduced in last year’s legislation, but was held up during the final week of the session. On February 22 the bill was re-introduced.
“This bill would protect consumers by making it a misdemeanor to resell or transfer ownership of a vehicle that has been flooded, water damaged or the title reregistered so often the salvage label has been dropped, or ‘washed’ to hide its true history,” Oropeza (D-Carson) said. “Caveat Emptor may mean ‘buyers beware’ but when the title of the vehicle itself is fraudulent, consumers need strong government protection.”
As introduced, Senate Bill 498 would impose a fine of $1,000 on first offense, $5,000 on second offense, and $10,000 on third and subsequent offense.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau online database listed seven hurricane-damaged 2005 Nissans that were sold at a southern California auto salvage auction late last year. According to the State Insurance Commissioner, “... as many as 600,000 vehicles were swamped by the flood waters from the heavy rains, breached levees, and storms of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma last year.” The Automobile Club of Southern California estimated that, “at least half of those will end up on the used car market instead of being scrapped.”
Ray Sotero, Communications Director to Senator Oropoza said that at present there is no protection against these cars.
“The senator believes that these cars are ticking time bombs because of salt water’s corrosive effects,” said Ray Sotero, communications director to Sen. Oropeza.