Check Once, Check Twice: I Didn’t Realize My Car Was Unsafe

Make sure your car doesn’t have an open recall.

Deborah A.P. Hersman
July 02, 2018

It is important to practice safe driving every single time you are behind the wheel, especially with more than 160 roadway deaths predicted this Independence Day holiday.

But how can you be a safe driver if your car is unsafe?

This statistic might surprise you: Almost 1 out of 4 vehicles on the road today has an open, unrepaired recall. All told, that’s about 57 million vehicles in the United States with known problems that need to be fixed.

I drove one of those vehicles.

I’m sharing my story in hopes that it will motivate you to check your vehicle’s recall status and, if necessary, schedule an appointment for a free repair with a local certified dealer. Recalls can affect everything from airbags to seat belts to steering columns, and driving a vehicle with a known defect could put you and your family at risk.

Many people have no idea that the vehicle they drive every day is under an active recall. That is why the National Safety Council launched Check To Protect to make it easy for drivers to check their vehicle’s recall status.

When Check To Protect debuted last year, I visited the website and checked the status of my family’s vehicles, a 2005 minivan and a 2010 sedan. The process was extremely simple. I clicked “Check for Recalls,” entered the 17-digit VIN (vehicle identification number) for each vehicle, and had my answer moments later.

The minivan had an open recall, which I quickly resolved by scheduling a free repair. The sedan had no recalls, but it did have a Takata airbag in a low-priority grouping that could be subject to recall down the road.

Our family had not received a notice about the minivan’s open recall. We had moved since buying the vehicle, and it’s possible the notice was sent to our previous address. That is a common issue when it comes to recalls. For used vehicles – the recall notice might be sent to the previous owner instead of the current driver.

Once our minivan was fixed for free, life moved on.

I visited CheckToProtect again this spring after reading a story about recalled airbags and wondered if it was our turn for a replacement. I was surprised to see that the sedan had an open airbag recall, issued several months earlier.

We quickly scheduled a free repair and had the vehicle back in safe condition.

I have two teenage drivers – a fully licensed 17-year-old and a 15-year-old on a learner’s permit. What if something had gone wrong while they were at the wheel? What if it was my husband? Or myself?

Fortunately, nothing bad happened. But others have been injured and even killed by defective parts.

Do yourself a favor. Visit and bookmark www.CheckToProtect.org. Think of checking for recalls as part of routine vehicle maintenance just like changing your oil or adjusting your tire pressure.

Don’t assume a recall notice will find you every time.

A simple, proactive plan can protect you and your family. Spread the word to everyone you know that it’s important to check for recalls and have them repaired. It’s just one more way we can keep each other safe.

Deborah A.P. Hersman

Deborah A.P. Hersman is the former president and CEO of the National Safety Council.

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