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Uber and Lyft users court danger riding in cars with open recalls

Airbags with deadly deployment. Seat belts that detach on their own. Fires.

These dangers could be part of the unplanned itinerary for patrons who summon rides from Uber and Lyft services in New York City and the Seattle, Washington area, according to Consumer Reports.

The May 21, 2019 Consumer Reports story said about 1 in 6 of the cars used by Uber and Lyft drivers have unaddressed safety defects. That means the cars have open recalls, potential dangers that the federal government has determined should be fixed.

A recall is issued when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or a manufacturer determines a component in a car poses a safety risk.

Millions of U.S. riders daily rely on ride-hailing companies and Uber and Lyft are the largest.

Cars With Open Safety Recalls

Consumer Reports reviewed safety records for about 94,000 cars registered as operating for Uber or Lyft in New York City and King County, Washington, which includes Seattle. Consumer Reports intended that the review be a snapshot of open safety recalls in the industry, but it might not reflect the national market.

Among problems found in the review of the Uber and Lyft cars that have safety recalls are:

  • potential seat belt detachment
  • possible engine failure
  • airbags that could kill or hurt a driver or front-seat passenger. Airbags made by Japanese car-parts manufacturer Takata have been linked to 24 deaths across the world, including 16 in the United States. These airbags remain in 1,274 of the vehicles, or 1.4 percent, of the total of 93,958 reviewed by Consumer Reports.
  • potential for vehicles to catch fire
  • potential for vehicles to stall, which could lead to a crash

Companies like Uber and Lyft rely on contract drivers using their own cars, a largely unregulated relationship. Uber and Lyft officials said the companies encourage drivers to address vehicle recall defects. A spokesman said Uber blocks cars from operating if they have recalls that include a “Do Not Drive” notice until repairs are made.

Lyft officials said the company works with state and local officials to establish car safety rules. Lyft drivers have an incentive to ensure their cars are safe because they use them with their own families, Lyft officials said.

Recall Notification System

To see whether a car has defects cited in a recall, the car's 17-character vehicle identification number (VIN) is needed. The VIN is posted on the lower left part of the windshield and also may be placed on registration and insurance documents.

The VIN isn’t always available from municipality to municipality. New York City publishes on its website an updated list of VINs of Uber and Lyft drivers’ vehicles.

King County officials made VINs for Uber and Lyft vehicles available only after Consumer Affairs filed a public records request. The city of Chicago cited privacy laws in refusing to provide VINs.

Uber and Lyft patrons have options that include contacting the NHTSA or Carfax.

Once an Uber or Lyft rider is connected with a driver, they’ll receive details about the driver’s car, including the license plate number.

If the rider is able to get the VIN of the car being driven by an Uber or Lyft driver, they can visit the NHTSA website, enter the VIN and see if the car has been subject to a recall repair notice.

Carfax is an online posting of car histories. Riders can download the myCarfaxapp, punch in the license plate number of the car and see if it has an open recall.

Contact Davis Davis Davis & Davis Attorneys At Law today for help if you've been injured in a car accident, truck crash, motorcycle wreck or pedestrian accident.

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