Federal highway safety officials urge consumers to schedule recall repairs on any vehicles impacted by the more than 1,000 safety warnings issued last year, indicating in a recent alert that there are a growing number of open recalls among automobiles on U.S. roadways, which may increase the risk of accidents and injuries..
The U.S National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released the Vehicle Recall Consumer Alert on October 19, encouraging vehicle owners to use the available resources provided by the agency to determine whether their vehicle has an open safety recall. Millions of automobiles were impacted by recalls issued in 2019, many of which have still not been repaired, the agency notes.
On average, tens of millions of vehicles are recalled annually by automobile manufacturers, who consistently struggle to keep up with repairs while the NHTSA oversees the recall processes.
Automobile recalls have been steadily on the rise over the last decade, with the NHTSA citing sharp increases from about 13 million recalls in 2011 to over 51 million announced in 2016. Despite a slight decline in the number of vehicles recalled in 2017 and 2018, the NHTSA saw a significant increase in 2019.
NHTSA data indicates the number of recalls issued last year decreased, while the number of total vehicles impacted by recalls grew by almost 20 million. When compared to the prior year, officials saw a total of 53 million vehicles recalled in 2019 compared to 35 million in 2018.
A report issued earlier this year by CARFAX indicated approximately 55.7 million vehicles in the United States have an open, and unrepaired safety recall issued for defects including rupturing air bag inflators, vehicles catching fire and many other serious and potentially fatal injury hazards.
Many of the open and unrepaired recalls to date can be traced back to Takata airbag inflator recalls which affected more than 40 million vehicles across 19 auto manufacturers, who collectively make up more than 90% of the U.S. vehicle fleet. The Takata ammonium-nitrate based inflators were found to be prone to rupturing and spray metal fragments from the inflator housing at the driver or other occupants.
After already recalling millions of vehicles with Takata inflators, BMW, Volkswagen, Honda, Toyota and Mitsubishi subsequently recalled another 1.4 million older model vehicles in December 2019.
To date, the NHTSA is aware of at least 16 deaths in the United States and another seven outside of the U.S.
One of the largest recalls contributing to the 2019 totals involved 3.5 million Chevrolet and GMC. A recall announced by the NHTSA in September 2019, stated the vacuum pump in certain SUV and pickup trucks braking systems may decrease over time, requiring additional braking force and longer distances to stop, which may increase the risk of an auto accident. At the time of the recall at least 113 accidents and more than a dozen injuries had been reported.
The NHTSA warning highlights the importance of repairing safety defects quickly after they are announced, as unrepaired and lingering safety defects in automobiles significantly increase the risk of a crash and injury.
One of the NHTSA’s largest struggles is communication and awareness to the public about new and past safety recalls. Often, owners may misplace mailed recall notices, or have moved to a different location and never become aware of them, allowing potentially fatal safety defects to go unrepaired.
On August 27, The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced the release of the updated SafeCar app which the agency claims will be a convenient and hassle free resource to notify consumers about recalls or safety problems related to their registered equipment.
The app is supposed to make recall information more readily available, by automatically matching a consumer’s registered products to recalled products listed in the agency’s national database, rather than making consumers search for recalls or waiting for an automaker to mail a notice. The app is designed to send a notification to the user with the recall information, and also relay where the nearest dealerships are located to schedule a repair appointment.