The numbers are staggering: 53 million cars, or almost one out of four vehicles on U.S. roads, have an open recall, a safety issue for those cars and also for millions of other drivers who share the road, says Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council.

The Council, along with support from Fiat Chrysler Automobile U.S., launched a “Check to Protect” ad campaign Thursday aimed at getting cars with recalls their needed repairs. The campaign, which kicks off in July, works in conjunction with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The campaign urges vehicle owners to go to the website checktoprotect.org, which takes them to the NHTSA VIN lookup tool. Drivers can plug in their Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) or year/make/model to see whether any recalls are still open against their vehicle. The VIN can be found at the base of the windshield, on the driver's side. (Owners who don’t have their VIN handy can check their make, model, and year to see recall information and explanations by mechanics at CR.org/carrecalls.)

The dealership for the car brand is where you must go to have recalls performed, but it is possible a recall may be announced before the parts and process are in place.

Recalls are a particularly serious concern for older vehicles that may have passed through multiple owners. In those cases, paperwork might be missing or incomplete, making it difficult or impossible for the automaker to identify the current vehicle owner.

About 83 percent of newer cars get recall work done, but the Council said that rate is just 44 percent for vehicles five to 10 years old.

"Promoting NHTSA's VIN look-up system and launching a targeted media campaign are good first steps, but automakers can do much more to truly shift their safety recall efforts into high gear," says David Friedman, director of cars and products for Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization arm of Consumer Reports, and also former interim director of NHTSA. "When consumers learn about a recall, they should act fast to get it fixed because safety defects put the owner, their family, and others on the road at risk."

Friedman says there are additional steps that automakers could take to speed recall work: ensuring replacement parts are available, pushing for new regulations requiring anyone selling a used car to fix outstanding recalls, and offering consumers financial incentives to address recalls.

“Fixing a defect in your car makes the roads safer for everyone,” says Mark Chernoby, chief technical compliance officer for FCA US. “What we have done historically is not getting the job done.”

Chernoby says the campaign will use social media to target parts of the country with higher open recall rates or a more urgent need, such as hot, humid areas in the Southern states, where replacing Takata airbags is a priority.

“We are at the start of the summer travel season,” Hersman says. “We know that a lot of Americans are loading up their vehicles with their families to get on the road, and just as they’re checking their oil and their tire pressure, we want them to check their VINs.”

States With Highest Rates of Open Recalls

State

Open Recalls (Percent)

Texas

28.0
Mississippi27.4
Louisiana26.5
California25.6
New Mexico25.4
Alabama25.3
Kentucky25.0
South Carolina24.6
West Virigina24.4
Georgia (tie)24.3
Utah (tie)24.3
  1. Source: CarFax

States With Lowest Rates of Open Recalls

State

Open Recalls (Percent)

North Dakota18.3
Montana19.3
Wisconsin19.8
South Dakota19.9
Oregon20.0
  1. Source: CarFax