Risks of Driving On Borrowed Time (Recalls)

car recallsA recent article summed up a growing problem in the USA — millions of vehicles have been recalled, but drivers are not getting to the dealer to have essential repairs done.

In fact, about a third of all recalled cars and trucks don’t get repaired, and estimates place about 36 million defect-laden vehicles in operation right now.


There are several reasons to account for these alarming numbers:

  • Many disregard notices in the mail, assuming that the letter is an advertisement or other form of “junk mail”
  • Some never receive the notice since they’ve moved since purchasing the vehicle, and no longer have forwarding services for mail.
  • Some bought the car used from another private person, and are not in the recall notification system files
  • Some drivers know about the recall and simply disregard the risk of continued operation (perhaps figuring that it doesn’t sound very serious, they just don’t have the time, etc.)  The article included a quote from a driver in this category — “…I’m well aware of the potential problem,but I’m the kind of person who doesn’t get scared by the headlines. I can assess the real risk and I’ve driven a lot of miles with no issues. I don’t expect it to happen in the next month.”
  • Some drivers are concerned about getting stuck with additional repairs at the dealership that they didn’t budget for and are not covered by the recall.

The consequences can be significant depending on the system(s) affected.  From the article:

Donna Voag’s 20-year-old son, Christopher, was driving his 2001 Hyundai Elantra to the gas station from their home in Bethlehem, Pa., late one evening last August when the front suspension collapsed. He had no idea the vehicle had been recalled four years earlier [emphasis added] for that defect, she said.  “Thank God he was going slow and decided to go to the gas station first, or otherwise he’d have been on the highway,” said Voag, 54, who manages a family shoe store. “He was very upset when he came home. He said. ‘Something really bad happened to my car.’ It was very dangerous.”

safercar govIf you’re concerned that you might miss a recall notice for your (light duty) vehicle(s) you can visit safercar.gov to proactively search current safety issues, OR sign up for email notifications tied to your make and model year (http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/subscriptions)

At that same page, you can sign up for notifications about child restraints (car seats); tires; motorcycles/helmets/related equipment and even school bus recalls!