Nearly a quarter of all vehicles on U.S. roads are under an open safety recall, according to a new Carfax study, indicating millions of motorists are at risk of injury and death by driving vehicles with an unrepaired auto defect.
Carfax, which operates the world’s largest vehicle history database, says that more than 57 million vehicles in the U.S. are under an open safety recall. That means problems such as faulty airbags, gear shifters, ignition switches, steering wheel assemblies, electronics, and a spectrum of other defects have the potential to cause harm, even years after the vehicles were recalled.
The problem of unresolved safety defects worsens with vehicle age. Owners of newer vehicles that are under warranty have frequent contact with dealers for routine maintenance and occasional repairs. The chances of those vehicles having recall repairs completed are high – about 83 percent according to the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.
Cars tend to change ownership as they age, and automakers can lose touch with owners. Vehicles between five and 10 years old have a recall repair rate of 44 percent, and that drops even more to 29 percent for vehicles more than 10 years old.
States with the highest populations – California, Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, and New York – have the most number of vehicles under open recalls, according to Carfax. But the states with the highest percentage of unrepaired recalled vehicles are all southern states, including Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, New Mexico, Alabama and Arizona.
“That means that something serious is going on, and you need to get it fixed,” he said. “This is not a cosmetic issue.”
“If you are driving yourself or your family around in a vehicle with an open recall on it, you’re really taking a life in your own hands,” Mr. Levine told the Indy Star.
Finding out whether your vehicle is subject to an open recall is easy as long as you have your vehicle identification number (VIN) and a computer. Just go to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) recall portal and enter the 17-digit VIN. Car owners can also sign up for free email safety alerts for specific vehicles.