Your state’s department of motor vehicles already knows what make and model of car you own, and sends you registration documents every few years that you have to open. Safety advocates have suggested including information about important vehicle recalls in vehicle registrations to make sure more people know about recalls and comply. In an experimental program, Maryland will start sending these notices to vehicle owners.
Recalls can endanger the lives of drivers and passengers, like the notable recent recalls of shrapnel-spewing Takata airbags, or the General Motors ignition lock defect. Yet only around 70% of recalled vehicles get repaired, a figure that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants to improve.
While the Repairing Every Car to Avoid Lost Lives (RECALL) Act, a U.S. Senate bill with an excellent name, would have required every state to implement such a program, that specific bill was not passed.
Instead, funding for a pilot program for up to six states was part of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, a transportation infrastructure bill signed into law by President Obama in late 2015. Only one state applied, the Baltimore Sun notes, and that was Maryland, which recieved a $222,300 grant to test whether such a notification program will work.
“Recalls are serious. Recall repairs are completely free to the consumer. This first-in-the-nation grant will serve as an example to the rest of the country as we continue to work across government to reach consumers in new and creative ways with potentially life-saving information about their vehicles,” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said in a statement.
Recall notices sent with registrations will not be a substitute for notifications from manufacturers, which are still obligated to contact customers. They’re just a supplement, since customers tend to mistake the letters for junk mail.
However, vehicles with open recalls won’t be prevented from registering with the state. The MVA, which is what Maryland calls its motor vehicle agency, would obtain recall information from a database that includes whether a particular vehicle has been repaired or not, so it wouldn’t pester car owners who have already had the repairs performed.
The pilot program will run for two years, after which it could expand to more states. Or not.