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Will Digital Recall Notices Boost Auto Repair Rates?

Every year, approximately 25 percent of recalled vehicles are left unrepaired, which means potentially dangerous vehicles are still on the road. To boost repair rates, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently proposed a new rule that would require automakers to notify consumer electronically.

Recalls have reached record levels over the past several years. Further compounding the safety issues, repair rates are still lagging. According to J.D. Power and Associates, 45 million vehicles recalled from 2013 through 2015 were still unrepaired as of last month.

"Safety recalls are vitally important, but far too often people say they are unaware of open recalls on their vehicles," a NHTSA spokesman said. "This proposed rule would require automakers to add modern tools to the way they communicate to owners about open recalls. NHTSA is committed to using all tools at its disposal to strive for 100 percent recall completions."

Under NHTSA's proposed rule, automakers would still be required to send recall notices to vehicle owners via postal mail. However, they would also have to provide notification by some form of electronic means.

The proposal defines “electronic means” to include “electronic mail, text messages, radio or television notifications, vehicle infotainment console messages, over-the-air alerts, social media or targeted online campaigns, phone calls, including automated phone calls, or other real time means.” Given the broad definition, the rule proposal makes clear that NHTSA “retains the discretion to require other means and additional notifications if the manufacturer's chosen means is impractical, does not feasibly reach all of the purchasers or owners impacted, or the Agency otherwise deems inappropriate.”

The proposed rule is now subject to public comment. In the meantime, NHTSA urges consumers to check their vehicle identification number (VIN) at least twice a year using NHTSA’s free VIN look up tool. To remember to check, NHTSA suggests timing it with day light savings – every November when setting clocks back and every March when setting clocks forward. If there is an open recall, the safety agency advises owners to contact their local dealer to schedule an appointment and bring their vehicle in for repair as soon as possible.

If you or someone you care about has suffered serious harm due to a defective vehicle, you may be entitled to compensation. For more information, please contact a San Diego product liability attorney at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation.