Motorists urged to check for open recalls before holiday road trips

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Vehicles with 16 million recalled airbags are still on the road

Despite advice from health experts to avoid travel over the Thanksgiving holiday, a recent survey from shows that nearly half the country will travel anyway, mostly by car.

CARFAX, an automotive data company, says travelers can be exposed to more danger than the coronavirus (COVID-19) if they travel in a car with an open, unrepaired recall for dangerous airbags. The company says there could be about 16 million airbags in vehicles on the road today with an open safety recall. More than 11 million of those are Takata airbags -- the subject of the largest recall action in U.S. history.

Takata airbags are especially dangerous since they have been shown to sometimes explode, sending tiny bits of metal throughout the vehicle’s cabin.

In addition to those airbags, CARFAX says its review of available data shows that there may be vehicles with another 5 million airbags from other suppliers that need to be replaced under recall orders. The company said it is issuing the reminder because it expects a sharp increase of vehicles on the road over the next few weeks.

"Unfortunately, the recent deaths related to defective airbags underscore the critical importance of closing any open recalls," said Faisal Hasan, general manager of Data at CARFAX. "As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, we know people may be taking road trips to visit family and loved ones. We strongly encourage all car owners to check for open recalls. It's free to check and free to get repairs, and it's a vital step in making our roads safer for everyone."

Here’s where to check if your car has an open recall

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) maintains an online database where you can check to see if your vehicle is subject to an open recall. You just need to know your vehicle information number (VIN), listed on your vehicle registration and embossed into the dashboard on the driver’s side of the vehicle. You can access the database here.

A total of 18 people have been killed in the U.S., and more than 250 injured, from the explosion of defective Takata airbag inflators. Problems with how those airbags work have led to 63 million inflators being recalled. 

Data from CARFAX shows the number of vehicles with open safety recalls is on the rise after two straight years of declines. There are more than 55.7 million recalled vehicles on the road today that haven't been repaired, up 5 percent from 2019, the company said.

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