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Amid reports of flood-damaged vehicles hitting the market this summer, I recently proposed legislation aimed at warning consumers if a vehicle they are buying has ever been damaged in high waters. I also am seeking new criminal penalties for dealers who fail to report flood damage to vehicles on their lots.

We are seeing a lot of indications that vehicles damaged in the Great Flood of 1993 and other disasters have been dried out, cleaned up and put up for sale. People buying cars this season need to be aware that today's great buy may be yesterday's washed up flood wreckage.

For example, a Hillsboro woman unknowingly bought a pickup truck heavily damaged in Florida's Hurricane Andrew. She bought her 1992 Ford F-150 pickup last year under the impression that it was a nearly new vehicle, with only 4,500 miles on its odometer.

However, in the 14 months she has owned the vehicle, she has taken it in for repairs seven times, including three trips to have it repainted. Nevertheless, the truck is rusting heavily and its electrical system is failing, causing gauges to go haywire and the headlights to switch off without warning.

I will introduce my legislative proposal during the current session and attempt to have it enacted into law as soon as possible. My plan would:

Mandate any dealer or private citizen who owns a "flood vehicle" to obtain an Illinois salvage title.

Require the word "FLOOD" to be stamped on the title of any vehicle that has been submerged up to the door sill or had water entering either the passenger or trunk compartments.

Make it a Class 4 felony for dealers who intentionally fail to notify the Secretary of State's office of vehicles that have been damaged by floodwaters. A Class 4 felony carries prison time of one to three years, plus a fine up to $10,000.

The Hillsboro woman learned her vehicle was flood-damaged only after discovering an insurance company's salvage certificate stuffed under the front seat. She used the certificate to track the vehicle to Florida, learning that the pickup's original title was stamped HURRICANE, indicating flood damage.

The information appears to have been dropped from the title because the truck was sold first in Missouri which does not brand the titles of salvaged or rebuilt vehicles before being sold in Illinois with a clean title.

We in Illinois have some of the toughest truth-in-labeling laws in the nation to warn consumers when a vehicle has undergone a major overhaul. Unfortunately, certain states are not as vigilant about keeping track of damaged vehicles.

Therefore, I have called on other Midwestern states and Florida affected by recent flooding to adopt legislation branding the titles of vehicles that have been salvaged or rebuilt after any major damage, including flooding.

Fallowing are several precautions consumers can take to protect themselves from buying flood-damaged vehicles:

1. Buy only from a reputable dealer.

2. Ask the dealer if the vehicle has ever been damaged by a flood or has had a salvage certificate issued against it. Get the answer in writing on the bill of sale.

3. Ask to see the title to the vehicle. If the vehicle has ever been declared a total insurance loss in Illinois, the word "REBUILT" will appear on the title.

4. Have the vehicle inspected inside and out by a mechanic that you trust. This mechanic can look for

July 1994 / Illinois Municipal Review / Page 23

mud in the frame or silt under the floor mats, seats or trunk lining.

5. Buy a vehicle with an Illinois title.

6. If interested in a specific used vehicle, get the serial number and obtain a chain of titles to determine prior ownership.

7. If you believe that you unknowingly bought a flood-damaged vehicle and that possible fraud has occurred, call the Attorney General's toll-free consumer hotline, 1-800-252-8666.

This is not a perfect guarantee against buying someone else's insurance loss, but this information could help someone narrow his or her odds of getting stuck with a lemon.

School Bus, Zero Tolerance Bills Sent to Governor

The School Bus Driver bill (SB 1733) passed the House recently on a 111-0 vote and was awaiting the Governor's signature on the deadline for the July edition of the "Illinois Municipal Review." The bill would provide new safeguards for the 900,000 Illinois children who ride school buses.

First described in the May issue of this magazine, SB 1733 would overhaul the system for licensing and issuing permits to school bus drivers and require fingerprinting of all new applicants, covering about a third of the 25,000 school bus drivers in Illinois the first year.

For the first time ever, our state will have the tools it needs to run a state-of-the-art background check on new school bus driver applicants. Getting their fingerprints on file will be a major step toward screening out the kind of people most of us do not want anywhere near our kids or grandkids.

The Zero Tolerance bill (SB 1730) would suspend the driving privileges of any minor caught driving after consuming any amount of alcohol after Jan. 1, 1995. The bill first was mentioned in my article about anti-DUI initiatives in the April issue of this magazine.

Technical changes in SB 1730 won approval in the Senate recently on a vote of 58-0. The bill earlier had passed the Senate unanimously and won House approval on a 99-8 vote. It now goes to the Governor, who is expected to sign the measure into law. Credit for passing the "Use It & Lose It" bill goes to legislators of both parties, as well as those supporters who have worked with my office for nearly a year to see this initiative through.

We will begin work immediately on an effort to drive home the message to young people. Tough laws accompanied by an educational effort have saved lives in other states, and this law has the potential to save dozens of young lives in Illinois.

Page 24 / Illinois Municipal Review / July 1994

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