In more recent times, an issue has arisen regarding the contamination of rental cars with methamphetamine residue. This issue arises for two primary reasons. First, there are individuals who obtain rental vehicles and then smoking meth in the car, truck, or SUV. This can result in a considerable level of contamination in the travel compartment of a vehicle. Second, meth dealers oftentimes rent cars, trucks, and SUVs to carry out their illicit trade. This criminal activity can result in contaminated passenger compartments in rental vehicles. 

Dangers of Exposure to a Meth Contaminated Vehicle

If a person or family rents a vehicle in which an individual previously has smoked meth in the cabin, exposure to residue from the drug can be problematic. There are a pair of primary factors to take into consideration when it comes to the impact of being in a rental car previously used by a meth smoker:

  • First, a factor that comes into play is how much of the drug was smoked inside the passenger cabin of the rental car.
  • Second, another factor is how long a meth smoker made use of the rental car.

The analysis is relatively simple. The more drug smoked in the rental car, the higher the level of meth contamination. The longer a meth user rented a car, the prospect of increased meth residue accumulation of contamination is enhanced over time.

If a subsequent rental car user is going to spend a significant period of time inside the vehicle, the more likely exposure to meth contamination in the vehicle will have an affect on that individual. It is important to note that children are particularly vulnerable to experiencing negative health consequences of exposure to meth contamination in a rental car. 

Signs and symptoms of exposure to meth in a rental car include:

  • Watery, red, and burning eyes, often accompanied by discharge and pain
  • Skin irritations, redness and rashes
  • Chest and/or abdominal pain and diarrhea
  • Chronic sneezing and coughing and shortness of breath
  • Negative effects on the central nervous system
  • Congestion of the voice box and other throat problems
  • Moderate or severe headaches
  • Dark-colored urine

Rental Cars, Meth Contamination, and the Health Risks of Quick Turnaround

The main reason why meth contamination tends to remain a persistent problem with rental cars is that once the drug residue is released into a passenger cabin, it is not apt to go away. For this reason, if a rental car was used by a person (or persons) who smoked meth in the vehicle, the contamination left behind is highly likely to never be remediated. Consequently, future vehicle renters are likely to be exposed to the meth contamination left behind. The problem can become compounded if another meth user were to rent the same vehicle and smoke the dangerous drug in the cabin. 

The primary reason why meth contamination may never end up addressed in a rental car stems from the fact that a quick turnaround of such a vehicle is vital to a rental agency or company. The practice is to give a rental car a relatively cursory cleaning and have it available for re-renting within little time after use. This type of quick turnaround and rapid cleaning doesn’t come anywhere near to being able to address something like meth contamination.

A car rental company is not going to be interested in taking the additional step of arranging for a test to ascertain whether meth or even fentanyl might be contaminating the vehicle. There certainly has been some sort of cost-benefit analysis weighing the risks of meth contamination to customers against the costs associated with testing for drug contamination and remediating it if it is detected. 

In theory, a rental company could attempt to screen prospective customers closely in an effort to identify a possible drug user. The reality is that this type of screening process is hardly going to be foolproof. Moreover, denying people the ability to rent a car based on a vague conclusion that they might use meth in a rented car might open up a rental company to an array of different allegations of improper dealing, including the prospect of discrimination claims. 

How to Protect Against Exposure to Rental Car Meth Contamination

A rental car company or agency really only has one recourse to pursue when it comes to protecting against the prospect of exposing customers to the possibility of meth contamination in a vehicle. The only sure avenue is to routinely test a vehicle for the presence of meth contamination in the cabin of a vehicle. If the drug is detected, remediation or meth decontamination must follow.

Customers really have no course available to them to protect against the prospect of meth contamination in a rental car. The bottom line is that they must assume the risk associated with possible meth exposure if they need to rent a car.