Action News Investigation: How safe are you when you take taxi or Uber?

Friday, February 3, 2017
How safe are you when you take taxi or Uber?
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An exclusive Action News investigation reveals too many cars used to get you around the Delaware Valley could be an accident waiting to happen.

An exclusive Action News investigation reveals too many cars used to get you around the Delaware Valley could be an accident waiting to happen.

We found more than a quarter of these vehicles have open recalls that weren't fixed, and passengers might never know it.

Passengers typically rely on taxis and Ubers without giving a second though to their safety. But you might want to think again.

We found recalls for airbags that could explode, brakes that may not work and cars that may stall while in motion - recalls that are linked to multiple deaths. But these vehicles are still on the road, transporting customers like you.

"Well my front end will fall off, so if I crash and die then oh well," said Vicky Miller, Uber driver.

Vicky Miller has been working for Uber for six months, and while she doesn't think her car is dangerous, Action News found it had an open recall that could cause a loss of steering and crash.

"It's not what I view in danger of falling apart yet," said Miller. "If it gets too much worse, then I have to park the car."

Miller tells Action News since we alerted her to this potentially dangerous recall, she has had her vehicle repaired.

As part of our investigation, Action News ran the license plates of 266 Ubers and the Vehicle Identification Numbers of more than 1,600 taxis.

More than 1 in 4 taxis or 27 percent have a recall that hasn't been fixed.

And we found 1 in 5 Ubers or 20 percent are also driving with an open recall - with problems ranging from faulty window controls to a seatbelt recall and potentially deadly airbag defects.

"You have an open recall on your car for a passenger airbag," Investigative Reporter Wendy Saltzman informed Uber driver Lemuel Ocasico.

"I am going to jump on that. I really didn't know that, so that's good you stopped me," said Ocasico.

Manufacturers are required to fix recalled defects for free, but it's up to the car's owner to schedule the repair. A simple check of a VIN number or license plate can pull up open recalls.

But even when serious problems aren't corrected, Action News found there's little keeping potentially dangerous Ubers and taxis off the road.

The Philadelphia's Taxi Workers Alliance Association tells Action News it's up to the cab companies, who own the vast majority of taxis, to voluntarily get safety recalls fixed.

The most common recall we found in taxis is a steering column problem that can result in a loss of steering control.

As for Ubers, we found multiple drivers on the road who had not fixed faulty Takata airbags that may explode and discharge metal shards, linked to seven deaths.

"Which is basically like a shotgun shell inside of the car," said Robert Ruch, ASE Master Certified Tech.

We found an Uber with a recall that can cause the car to stall while in motion, linked to three deaths.

And faulty rear door latches that may not properly lock.

"The door could open while the vehicle is in motion," said Ruch.

In a statement Uber tells Action News they "encourage (drivers) to check for recalls," and they require them to have an "active vehicle inspection." But attorney Robert Silverman warns they do not demand potentially dangerous recalls be repaired.

"Everyone thinks Uber makes sure that their drivers are safe and their cars are maintained in a safe way, but they don't," said Silverman, Kimmel and Silverman.

You can check to see if your car or the one you are riding in is safe with a quick check of the Carfax app. It is free on any smartphone device. You can find it by searching My Carfax in the app store. The app lets you enter a license plate number or VIN, and it will pull up any outstanding recalls on that car.

Additionally, if you want to check those license plates for recalls for free, CLICK HERE and download the free app, and run the license plates for free there.

For more news and updates to her investigations, be sure to follow Wendy Saltzman on Facebook.