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Traffic Stops: Another Tool for Completing Airbag Recall Repairs

In light of NHTSA’s updated consent order and its longstanding aspirational goal of achieving 100 percent repair rates, automakers are constantly looking for new and innovative solutions to expand and improve outreach to affected vehicle owners. Now, there is one more tool they can add to their toolbox – routine traffic stops.

Here’s how it works: when law enforcement officers pull over a driver and perform a stolen vehicle check, they will also receive a notification of any pending airbag recall.  This information will enable the officer to inform the driver of the important public safety issue and instruct vehicle owners to contact their local dealer or manufacturer to have it remedied. This approach has a number of advantages. First, it works regardless of who currently owns the vehicle and whether the vehicle is being driven as a registered or unregistered vehicle. This is especially important for older model vehicles that may have changed hands many times.

Second, owners may be more likely to take the issue seriously when it is brought to their attention by an authority figure. Despite efforts to distinguish recall notifications with other mailers, emails, and other forms of communication, some may still confuse them with marketing materials and ignore them. When a member of law enforcement alerts an owner to an issue, they are more likely to recognize that it is a serious matter.

This system also helps maintain compliance with NHTSA’s guidance on vehicles placed in the “other reasons” category. In addition to alerting officers, license plate recognition (LPR) scans are used in traffic control enforcement, toll roads, bridges, and related monitoring. If a VIN previously considered unreachable due to lack of activity and registration is identified as being in service, it must be removed from the “other reasons” list, and outreach to the vehicle owner must resume.  On an annual basis, more than 500 million transactions will be checked under this program, making it the most comprehensive available method to monitor for VIN activity.

This approach can’t replace repeated, escalating, multichannel notifications. Most vehicle owners are not going to be pulled over in the near future. And even if a law enforcement officer has the opportunity to share the recall, if someone other than the owner is driving the car, there are no guarantees the information will be received by anyone in a position to take action. But if automakers combine this approach with proven direct outreach methods, it can help accelerate repair rates to better protect the public.

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