Some 6.6 million "unsafe vehicles" are likely on the road despite having unresolved safety recalls, the federal government says.
In an analysis from June, Transport Canada estimated that one in five of the 33.3 million vehicles registered as of 2019 have outstanding recalls but continue to ply the country's streets and highways, potentially endangering occupants and other road users.
"Unresolved safety issues affecting vehicles, restraint systems for children and disabled persons, and tires can lead to property damage, injury or even death," the analysis states.
The department has proposed new rules that would require companies that issue a safety recall to quickly post related information on their website in order to boost awareness and fix the defect.
The amended regulations would also make car companies provide a lookup tool for vehicle inspection numbers on their websites to provide info on recalls.
Only a minority of owners find out about recalls, especially if the auto is second-hand with the new owner beyond the reach of the carmaker or dealership, said Ian Jack, vice-president of public affairs at the Canadian Automobile Association.
"Unfortunately in this country if you want to know for sure whether there's a recall issued on your vehicle, you have to pay attention yourself _ especially in the case of a used vehicle, because the only name on record that the government would have or that the automaker would have is likely the initial purchaser," he said in a phone interview.
However, Jack noted that many recalls pertain to minor issues that are not urgent or life-threatening.
"I don't want to leave the impression that there are millions of vehicles driving around about to explode or kill people in the next five seconds.
"They're not all Pintos," he said, referencing the 1970s Ford car with a reputation for fuel tank explosions in rear-end collisions.
Jack pointed to a Transport Canada recall on the 2022 Audi Q3 last fall that warned gas could spill out of the filler neck when the fuel cap is removed due to a damaged pipe on some of the SUVs.
"That's the kind of thing that you might want fixed, but it ain't gonna kill ya," he said.