Author: Trent S. Kerns, Richmond, VA Personal Injury Attorney
The State of Maryland was awarded a $222,000 grant by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to implement its pilot program to notify automobile owners of unrepaired safety recalls.
What Happens When a Vehicle Has a Safety Recall?
With a standard safety recall, the manufacturer first notifies the NHTSA of the defect, then the manufacturer sends a notice to vehicle owners informing them to take their car to a local dealership to make the repairs free of charge. While most owners of new cars follow through with repair of these safety recalls, not all do. When a vehicle is sold, the buyer can research the list of safety recalls for that specific car, but they have no way to determine whether the repairs were actually made without documentation from the original owner. In fact, US Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao states that as many as three out of every ten recalled vehicles have not been repaired.
What Will the FAST Act Grant Do?
Maryland’s FAST Act (Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act) grant will allow the state to launch a new program to track recalls of all vehicles in the mid-Atlantic in a central database, and then to notify vehicle buyers of any unfixed safety recalls upon registration. While this new program would help to alert car owners of potential safety concerns, it would not completely eliminate their risks.
With the results of the latest Carfax report on unrepaired recalls showing an average of one in four cars having an open safety recall, buyers are still encouraged to have a mechanic carefully examine any vehicle they plan to purchase and to obtain any service records they can from the previous owner(s).
The pilot program will be implemented for two years. When it is complete, the NHTSA will examine the results to determine whether the program will be implemented nationwide.
How Do I Know If My Car Has Safety Recalls?
To learn about active vehicle recalls, you can use the NHTSA's website to search your 17-character vehicle identification number using their recall database. VIN numbers are typically located on your vehicle’s registration documents or along the inside of the driver’s door.
To sign up for NHTSA safety alerts for a specific vehicle, you can subscribe to their recall notification system.