Almost 20 percent of the vehicles currently being driven, bought, or sold in the US are a part of one or more open recalls, says recently released research from Carfax.

To put it another way: one out of every five cars, SUVs, trucks, or vans in America has some sort of unfixed safety issue.

With about 260 million autos in this country at the moment, that means more than 47 million may be in desperate need of repair.

Why It’s Important to Take Recalls Seriously

If none of the above sounds like a big deal, consider this: one of the most newsworthy recalls in the last few years revolved around an issue that caused over 100 deaths and 200 injuries.

Which explains why, earlier this year, US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said, “Recalls are a serious safety issue that should be promptly addressed.”  

“The number we always keep in mind at NHTSA is 32,675,” added the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Mark Rosekind during January’s Washington Auto Show. That’s how many people died on American roadways in 2014. In 2015, the number jumped to 38,300, says the National Safety Council.

There’s no telling how many of those fatalities can be tied to vehicles with open recalls, of course. Still, there’s no doubt at least some of them can.

As a result, “many people … are unnecessarily risking their lives by not staying informed or taking action when their vehicle is under a recall,” Carfax Communications Director Larry Gamache said recently.

Minivans Most Likely to Have Unfixed Safety Issues (and Other Interesting Stats)

Still not convinced you need to take vehicle recalls seriously? Here are a few more eye-opening recall statistics:

  • Every state in the US is home to at least 100,000 autos with an open recall
  • People in Texas, Mississippi, Alaska, Utah, or West Virginia are more likely than those in other parts of the country to have an unfixed recall
  • The same is true of those who own minivans or SUVs

According to Carfax, by the way, minivans are the most likely of all vehicle types to have unfixed safety issues. (One in every 4.6 is part of an open recall.)

The type of vehicle with the second-highest rate of unfixed safety issues is the SUV. After that comes pickup trucks and cars.

51 Million New Recalls and Counting

“Millions of vehicles are recalled every year,” Rosekind said in a press release that launched the NHTSA’s “Safe Cars Save Lives” initiative earlier this year.

In 2015, the number of new recalls – as opposed to ones from previous years -- topped 51 million. How many individual recalls did it take to reach that figure? Nearly 900, according to the NHTSA.

The safety agency also says about 25 percent of all recalled vehicles are left unrepaired.

Gamache, for one, seemingly expects those trends to continue. “Millions more vehicles will likely be recalled this year,” he said in Carfax’s recent report.

How to Stay on Top of and Respond to Vehicle Recalls

What can you do to stay in the loop about your car and its recall status? Here are a couple pieces of advice from the NHTSA:

  • Check your vehicle identification number (VIN) at least twice a year to see if it’s included in a recall
  • If you think you’ll forget, tie your check-in to daylight savings in March and November

Should an upcoming – or existing – recall name an auto you own, don’t ignore it. As soon as the manufacturer alerts you, call a local dealer.

Contact the carmaker directly if your dealer doesn’t make the needed repairs in a timely manner. That should be enough to get the ball rolling. If it isn’t, file a complaint with the NHTSA.

In the meantime, look over your car insurance and make sure it’ll protect you whether or not your vehicle is part of a recall. For assistance, read our “Car Insurance Basics” article. Also read our articles about “Car Insurance Limits” and “Car Insurance Deductibles.”