WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) wants to protect consumers from purchasing flood and salvage vehicles. Lott, chairman of the Surface Transportation Subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee, introduced legislation–S.3707–that would require insurance companies to make total-loss information commercially available to the public. In introducing the legislation, Lott said it is particularly needed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, but it's hardly a new problem. Even without the influx of Katrina-damaged cars, he said, thousands of wrecked, flooded or stolen automobiles are sold every year with clean titles to unsuspecting consumers. According to the National Automobile Dealers Association, approximately five million vehicles were "totaled" by insurance companies in 2005 due to extensive damage, flooding or theft. But "thousands" of these vehicles are rebuilt and then sold, with clear titles, to unsuspecting customers. This problem, said NADA, grew "dramatically" worse with the estimated 500,000 vehicles damaged by Katrina. In addition, NADA said there's evidence that many of these flood-damaged vehicles are now returning to the marketplace.

NADA's Vice President of Legislative Affairs David Regan said the legislation is a big plus for consumers. It would "red-flag" totaled vehicles forever and would help combat title washing and fraud, he said.

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