The major increase in automaker recalls over this past year may be alarming, but it is not nearly as frightening as the number of drivers who ignored the issues related to these recalls.
According to the Los Angeles Times, at least 35 million of the nearly 60 million vehicles recalled this year in the United States were not taken in for repairs — even though a number of the issues reported had resulted in fatalities.
Among the deadly car problems were defective airbags in Honda, Toyota, Nissan and other popular automakers’ vehicles. The defect could cause metal fragments to shoot out inside the car from the Takata air bag inflators deploying incorrectly and has already been responsible for five deaths in the U.S.
GM also had life-threatening defects in some of its vehicles that resulted in 42 deaths, including a faulty ignition switch that can shut off while the car is in motion and cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle. The automaker has repaired over 60% of the two million defective cars, according to the Los Angeles Times, but that still means that there are 700,000 potentially deadly GM vehicles roaming the streets.
All in all, only 40% of recalled vehicles in the U.S. have been taken in for repairs, leaving the opportunity for many more potentially fatal car crashes. While many people may think that their recalled cars aren’t likely to cause a problem, most of these issues happen out of the blue in a matter of minutes, giving the driver very little time to react.
“We represented a plantiff that was driving a Toyota that had a defective airbag, the airbag would go off without any sort of accident mechanism and it went off when she was in her car and almost damaged her eye,” says Ramin Soofer of Soofer Law Group. “Toyota sent the notice of recall to the wrong address and she was able to recover the full amount of her damages from Toyota because of that. If she received the notice her recovery would have been substantially less.”
While many drivers with recalled vehicles have trouble finding the time to take their cars in for repairs, the fact that many of the parts needed to make the repairs are no longer being produced or are on back order for months at a time doesn’t help. This is especially true for older models that have been recalled, like the 2003 and 2011 GM vehicles with a faulty ignition.
Another issue is that many people throughout the U.S. are simply unaware of the recalls. Whether due to language barriers or failed attempts to spread the word, automakers need to do more to ensure that no one else is injured or killed as result of their defective vehicles. At the same time, drivers of recalled vehicles need to realize the importance of having their vehicles repaired.