NHTSA Study Says 30 Percent of Drivers Ignore Recalls

Mar 18, 2014 01:41 PM EDT | Jordan Ecarma

Tags GM, recalls, study, NHTSA

In the midst of a host of vehicle recalls including General Motors' ignition switch fiasco, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has released data indicating that as much as 30 percent of people continue driving their cars as is.

Motorists tend to overlook recalls that haven't yet been related to injury or death, The Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch reported.

"Because there haven't been fatalities, which is obviously a good thing, the recalls may not be treated as seriously," Jack Nerad, executive market analyst and editorial director at Kelley Blue Book, told MarketWatch.

The NHTSA found that the overall recall response rate is about 70 percent; however, even that figure doesn't mean that all the responding consumers completely followed through on the recall.

"They would like to boost that response percentage," Nerad told MarketWatch. "If there are 1 million recalls and 30 percent of people aren't responding, that's still a big number."

If no injuries are reported and the car seems to be fine, motorists tend to put off the issue even when dealers are offering to fix the vehicles.

"Some people take the attitude that if it's sunny today, it's never going to rain," Nerad said. "With wear and tear, older cars are more susceptible to something going wrong related to that flaw."

A 2012 study showed that people become even less likely to respond to a recall for older vehicles.

Besides safety, legal risk is at stake when owners don't follow through on recalls.

"If you ignore the recall completely and have a problem, it could be an issue for financial compensation," Patrick Regan, a Washington, D.C.-based civil trial attorney, told MarketWatch.

GM recalled around 1.6 million vehicles last month after reports of ignition switch problems, which have been related to 12 deaths in 34 crashes in the recalled vehicles. The carmaker is looking into the matter, and the House Energy and Commerce Committee is also launching an investigation.

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