Recalls may seem like an inconvenience more than anything else, but in reality they are a serious issue that many drivers must address. The past year gave millions of motorists a personal experience with this. In 2014 alone, more than 60 million vehicles were recalled for a variety of reasons, according to The New York Times, which doubles the previous recall record set in 2004. Although some may view this as a fluke, it's a sign of changing standards and increased caution throughout the auto industry.
There were approximately 700 recall announcements made throughout the year as well. While some of the larger ones dominated the headlines, others slipped through the cracks. That makes it incredibly easy for drivers to ignore a problem - even if that ignorance leads to increased risk.
Recalls show no signs of slowing down in 2015, with instances of auto repair predicted to increase. On the surface that seems like a bad thing, but others in the industry are pleased that high standards being set and rules being enforced.
"I would expect that we will actually see an increase in recalls," Mark Rosekind, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, told a group of reporters in an interview, as quoted by Reuters. "This is one of those cases where more recalls could actually mean the system is working better."
Not all drivers pay attention to recalls
Carfax recently released a study focusing on how drivers respond to recalls. According to the data, more than 46 million cars in the U.S. have at least one outstanding safety recall. These impacted vehicles aren't just older models sitting in driveways. The study also found that about 5 million of the affected cars were bought and sold in 2014, with many of the drivers completely unaware of the potential problems.
"America's cavalier response to manufacturer safety recalls is putting lives at risk," said Larry Gamache, communications director at Carfax. "Every morning millions of people drive to work, school and other places in a potential ticking time bomb. Fires, crashes and serious injury are just a few consequences of letting recalls go unfixed. The minor inconvenience that comes from having a recall fixed pales in comparison to what can happen if you don't."
Unfixed cars were more prevalent in certain states and among specific segments. Carfax found that 1 in 3 minivans and 1 in 5 SUVs currently have at least one unaddressed recall. That's particularly troubling, as many of these models are designed for families, indicating that children are being put at risk. Car repair is most often left to chance in states like West Virginia, Michigan and Mississippi - those are the three with the highest ratios of unfixed automobiles, according to the report.
Expect the unexpected
As a driver, it's up to you to stay informed of potential dangers and official recalls. The best way to do this is to pay special attention to recall notices. Anytime your brand is in the news, it may be in your best interest to schedule an appointment with a local auto repair franchise. While dealerships will handle specific recall tasks free of charge, experts at a repair shop can check all aspects of a vehicle and ensure it's operating at a high level.
Even if the issue seems minor, it's important to have it addressed in a timely manner. Safety and vehicle maintenance are frequently affected by these problems, but they may have an economic impact as well. Unfixed issues can lead to decreased fuel efficiency or more extensive damage - something that hurts your wallet as well as your car.