Panel shelves safety bill spawned by Santee officer's death - Brian W. Jones

Panel shelves safety bill spawned by Santee officer's death

SACRAMENTO — The family of a Santee CHP officer killed in a car accident that spawned a national debate and court battles over alleged unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles...

I cannot comprehend how anyone would oppose this bill. … No family should have to suffer the type of horrific loss that we have been through,” testified Fe Lastrella of Vallejo, mother-in-law of the late officer, Mark Saylor.

However, citing lingering questions, the Assembly Business and Professions Committee held the legislation without a vote. The author, Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, said she will address the concerns and bring her bill back for a vote next year.

While off-duty, Saylor was driving a Lexus loaner car he received from a dealer in August 2009 when it suddenly accelerated out of control and crashed into a Santee riverbed along state Route 125. Saylor died, along with his wife, Cleofe, daughter, Mahala, and brother-in-law, Christopher Lastrella.

That crash and mounting reports of stuck gas pedals sparked a massive recall of Toyota and Lexus vehicles. Lexus is a division of Toyota. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration fined Toyota nearly $50 million for not quickly recalling vehicles after the problems became known.

Federal law requires dealers to fix a new vehicle recalled for safety reasons before it can leave the lot. But there is no similar requirement when it comes to selling a used car. Rental cars are also not subject to the federal law.

Saylor’s loaner car was not part of a safety recall at the time of the accident. That revelation coming in the middle of the hearing drew a sharp rebuke from Assemblyman Brian Jones, R-Santee.

“That accident still resonates in my community. For you to take advantage of that situation and try to compel votes out of the committee on an emotional level, I find that very disingenuous,” he told Jackson.

Supporters said the law is needed to make sure used cars are safe when they leave the lots. Dealers were opposed, saying sometimes the recall is an exaggerated safety risk and that other times the parts are simply not available.

The measure would not have applied to private party sales.