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Senate Committees Pass Pair Of Buono Automobile Bills

TRENTON – Two Senate Committees today approved a pair of bills sponsored by Senator Barbara Buono that would better protect consumers under the State’s “Lemon Law” for new car purchases and make it easier for drivers to obtain an accident report by facsimile or mail.

The Senate Commerce Committee unanimously approved S-534, which would amend the “Lemon Law”, which protects purchasers of new automobiles or motorcycles. The bill would expand protection under the law from two years or 18,000 miles to 2 years or 24,000 miles, whichever comes first.

“It’s not unreasonable to expect that a new car would remain in good working condition for the first 24,000 miles,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex. “We’re extending the protection so that it more closely reflects the average driving habits of New Jersey residents and gives them adequate coverage from dealer fraud. Drivers commute much farther today than when the law was enacted fifteen years ago.”

Under an amendment to the bill adopted during Committee, dealers would have to fix a defect on the first try, or replace the vehicle outright, if that defect may cause serious bodily injury. The current law gives dealers up to three attempts to fix a defect, but does not differentiate between problems with the braking system and problems with the air conditioning. For non-lethal defects, dealers would be held to the previous standard.

“Drivers cannot bank on three repair attempts when their safety is at issue,” explained Senator Buono. “There is a major difference between an inconvenient oversight like a malfunctioning radio and the possibility that your car won’t stop when you hit the brakes. Our drivers shouldn’t have to put themselves at risk two or three times before they get a car that provides the safe transportation we expect when buying a new car.”

Senator Buono’s bill also requires that dealers provide information regarding the State’s “Lemon Law” protection Owner’s Warranty Rights Notification booklet, to ensure that the information got to the consumer.

The second bill, S-997, would require police departments to provide accident reports on request through the mail or via fax. The police departments would be allowed to require the individual asking for the report to complete a request form and submit a fee of up to $5 for the first three pages and $1 for each additional page before the report is sent.

“This bill will allow those involved in accidents to save time and money when obtaining the police accident report,” explained Senator Buono. “It can be difficult to find time to make it to the police department to pick up a copy in person, especially if people don’t live close to the town where the accident occurred. In this Electronic Age, it doesn’t make sense not to have this option.”

The bill passed the Senate Transportation Committee today by a vote of 4-0.

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