You may be driving a potentially dangerous vehicle without knowing it. Nearly one in five vehicles on the road has an open safety recall according to a new report from CarFax.

A recall is issued when a manufacturer or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) determines a vehicle creates “an unreasonable safety risk” or fails to meet minimum safety standards. Manufacturers are required to fix the problem or offer a refund.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), last year saw the highest number of vehicle recalls in more than three decades. Vehicles have recently been recalled for exploding airbags, defective ignition switches, problems with crankshafts and doors that could fly open while you’re driving.

The research from CarFax, a company that provides history reports on used vehicles, found that one in every 4.6 minivans on the road has an open recall, and one in 5.1 SUVs does. The stats are one in 5.4 for other vehicles.

Related: Buying a Used Car? Watch Out: It May Be on a Safety Recall List

States with the highest number of unrepaired recalled vehicles are Texas, Mississippi, Alaska, Utah and West Virginia according to the report.

The NHTSA’s figures show that every year, on average, 25 percent of recalled vehicles are left unrepaired.

Some drivers may not realize their vehicle has been recalled. Recently, an accord was announced between automakers and the NHTSA that aims in part to get more drivers with recalled vehicles to bring in those vehicles for repair. (Another goal is to find and fix defects earlier.)

Figuring out if you car — or the car you’re looking to buy — has an open recall is easy. The NHTSA has an online tool that lets you search cars by make, model and year. You can also enter a vehicle identification number (VIN) to learn whether a specific vehicle that’s been recalled has been repaired.

Not sure how to locate your VIN? You’ll find it stamped under the glass in the bottom of the driver’s side windshield and inside the driver’s door or on your can insurance documents and online registration emails.

If your vehicle has been recalled, contact the manufacturer or dealer about getting it repaired.

Related: 6 Mistakes Drivers Make After a Car Accident

Provided your vehicle is registered, car manufacturers are supposed to notify you by mail if there’s a safety recall on the vehicle you purchased. If you get one of these letters, don’t ignore it. Remember, the defect could put your safety and the safety of your passengers at risk.

“Do not wait to act if your car is under recall and the parts are available,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a press release about the NHTSA’s Safe Cars Save Lives campaign. The campaign urges consumers to check for open recalls at least twice a year.

Related: Would You Know if Your Child's Car Seat Was Recalled?


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Marianne has been producing content that informs and inspires for more than 20 years, with a deep focus on bringing readers accurate, actionable advice and helping them live healthier, safer lives. Before launching SafeBee, she was executive editor of Sharecare, the health website and social network. Previously, she developed more than two dozen illustrated consumer health books for Reader’s Digest. Her writing has appeared in numerous outlets including Arthritis Today and WebMD. Her favorite safety tip: Know the purpose of every medication you take and under what circumstances you can stop taking it.