Researchers find reasons why vehicle owners ignore safety recalls and skip free repairs.

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Researchers find reasons why vehicle owners ignore safety recalls and skip free repairs.

— The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, automakers and safety advocates are always left scratching their heads when car owners don't have free repairs performed when cars are recalled to fix safety defects.

Federal safety regulators say 20 percent of car owners skip the free repairs, even when the safety defects are serious and can cause accidents, injuries and deaths. That's a lot of people considering more than 50 million vehicles were recalled in the U.S. in 2015.

The question of why owners ignore recalls was on the minds of researchers at the University of Michigan, so they conducted a survey of 516 drivers and asked that very question. Considering many recalls mean the difference between life and death, some of the answers show how lackadaisical people can be concerning auto safety.

According to researchers, the distance to a dealership can mean the difference between a repaired or unrepaired car, as only 45 percent of owners say they would definitely get their vehicles repaired when the dealerships are more than 30 minutes away. But knock 15 minutes off the trip and the number of people who would get repairs jumps to 81 percent.

And researchers found time is everything when an owner has to wait for repairs. If an owner has to wait less than a week for repairs, 74 percent say they will absolutely get repairs performed, but only 27 percent of owners will get the repairs if the wait time is longer than six months.

University researchers also say 38 percent of car owners ignore recalls because they worry about dealerships trying to sell more repairs than required under the recall. Another 37 percent of consumers say they don't want to turn their vehicles over to dealers, and 36 percent of owners worry about it taking too long for dealers to perform recall repairs.

It also seems that for some car owners, receiving free repairs that will possibly save their lives isn't good enough, as 51 percent of consumers say there should be incentives to get free repairs made, incentives such as a free tank of gas or free oil changes.

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