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With so many auto recalls, NHTSA urges DIY research

New Yorkers are now well aware of the recall scandal involving Takata air bags. According to the New York Times, a 10th person died late last year in an accident that involved an exploding Takata air bag. The scope of the recall in the United States has now expanded to include vehicles made by 14 major auto companies.

The Takata scandal is just the most prominent example of a phenomenon that has become sadly common. Automakers seem to be issuing safety recalls all the time - often after trying to hide the problem from regulators and the public. With so many recalls being announced, it should come as no surprise that many Americans have no idea whether or not their car is subject to a recall.

Thankfully, doing the research has gotten faster and easier. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and others have set up websites where consumers can enter their vehicle identification number. The website then searches to see if the VIN matches any that have been submitted by automakers who have issued recalls. Once you look under the hood to find your VIN, researching online takes only about a minute.

Unfortunately, just because your car wasn't recalled today doesn't mean that it won't be recalled in a few months. Because the list is always changing, the NHTSA recently launched a new campaign called "Safe Cars Save Lives." The agency is urging all car owners to do an online search at least twice per year to see if their vehicle has been recalled.

Even though the search is easy, remembering to search can be difficult. That's why the NHTSA suggests connecting the search to other relevant dates throughout the year, such as the beginning and end of daylight savings time.

It is, of course, unfair that we have to do our own safety research. Recalled vehicles should be the exception rather than the rule. And when recalls do happen, automakers should do everything they can to get the word out.

Unfortunately, that kind of responsible action probably won't be seen any time soon. Therefore, being your own safety advocate is critical. In fact, it could just save your life.

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