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Record number of vehicles on the road with unrepaired recalls

Ginger Provencher's 2016 Nissan Murano was parked in the driveway and spontaneously ignited. (Courtesy Ginger Provencher)

WASHINGTON (WJLA) - Every few seconds on the road, you pass a vehicle with a potentially dangerous defect.

Whether they don't know, or just don't care, millions of drivers have not responded to recall notices, making 2017 a record year for the number of vehicles in use with unrepaired recalls.

Just a few days before last Christmas, Ginger Provencher was making breakfast for her family when her home nearly went up in flames.

“We received a frantic knock at our door,” she said. “There was smoke coming out of my vehicle. I would say it was probably 2 to 3 feet, at most, from the house."

Her 2016 Nissan Murano was parked on the driveway and spontaneously ignited.

Provencher’s husband and son ran outside to join neighbors who were frantically trying to put out the fire.

“I called 911 and the car, basically, was engulfed in flames at that point," said Provencher.

The house did not catch fire, but the vehicle was a total loss -- and part of a recall. The anti-lock braking system could leak fluid and cause a fire.

According to the company Recall Masters, which helps to notify consumers of auto recalls, 63 million vehicles have serious, unfixed defects. The company’s president, Chris Miller, says it’s a staggering number that’s starting to get out of control.

“There’s no road in America where a driver is safe from being exposed to a vehicle with an open recall,” says Miller. “All of the major cities in America are plagued with huge numbers -- hundreds and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of vehicles with open recalls on them. So, one in four vehicles you're driving by has a recall of some kind on it.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requires manufacturers to recall vehicles that have safety-related defects or do not meet federal safety standards.

Those recalls include everything from problems with fuel systems and accelerators to wiring systems, airbags and brakes.

According to NHTSA, 100 percent of vehicle recalls in America are safety related. Family vehicles, like SUVs and mini-vans, are the most likely to have unfixed recalls.

The top five states for open recalls, according to the most recent data released by CarFax, are California, Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania and New York.

The top five cities for vehicles on the road and under recall are:

  1. Los Angeles, 3.62 million
  2. New York City, 2.95 million
  3. Chicago, 1.68 million
  4. Dallas-Fort Worth, 1.66 million
  5. Philadelphia, 1.62 million

“The thing you really need to understand about open recalls,” says Miller, “is that you're not just putting yourself at risk. You're also putting other drivers on the road at risk."

And don't assume service centers have your back.

When you take your vehicle in for repair, or for an oil change or pressure-check on your tires, Miller says dealerships are not consistently checking the VIN to see if there’s an open recall on the vehicle.

“We find that nearly 50 percent of vehicles going through the service lanes in authorized dealerships are not being checked,” says Miller.

And even when they are, you still may not be in the clear.

Ginger Provencher got a recall notice but was told it didn’t apply to her, so she went about driving her vehicle as if nothing was wrong.

“I had the dealer check it out. I thought everything was OK,” says Provencher.

Her vehicle was under recall -- but because an indicator light was not illuminated, she was told the car was safe.

“Since this incident has happened,” says Provencher, “I pay more attention to the recalls that come out. Pay attention to your recalls and address them as soon as you can whether you get the notice in the mail or you hear it on the news. It's definitely important to pay attention."

To check to see if there’s an open recall on your vehicle, go to http://www.safercar.gov. This is the NHTSA site -- and while it is accurate, it is not always current. It’s smart to check back occasionally to make sure your vehicle is in the clear. Additionally, http://mycarfax.com has tools and a free app that allow you to put in your license plate or VIN and immediately see if your vehicle is under recall. You can also sign up with them for free alerts, should your vehicle come under recall in the future.

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