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Some Rides For Hire Flunk Recall Test

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) -- It's estimated more than a million cars on South Florida streets are riding around with open recalls.

As car owners and drivers, we're responsible for making sure we get our cars fixed. But what if it's not your car?

Many of us turn to taxis and ride-sharing services to get around but CBS4's Lauren Pastrana put them to the recall test and found the cars may not be as safe as you think.

CBS4 News ran the license plates of 264 local Uber and Lyft vehicles; 59 of them, or 22-percent, had open recalls.

Per a CBS4's public records request, the Miami-Dade Transportation Department provided the license plate and vehicle identification numbers for taxis registered in the county. Of those, 206 had open recalls. That's more than 26-percent of the taxis that were checked.

Some of the recall issues were minor, but others could be potentially fatal.

"Did you know you have an open recall for a Takata airbag in this van," Pastrana asked taxi owner and operator Adrien Saint-Cyr.

"No," he replied.

Saint-Cyr drives a 2011 Toyota Sienna minivan.

More than 40 million vehicles have been recalled, including the 2011 Sienna, because defective Takata airbag inflators could deploy improperly in a crash, shooting metal fragments at the people in the car.

So far, more than a dozen deaths and many more injuries have been linked to the faulty airbags.

Toyota's website says a remedy for the 2011 Sienna model should be ready by this summer.

Saint-Cyr says he didn't know his taxi was affected, but that he plans to get it fixed.

The same goes for another taxi driver who didn't want to give his name. His Sienna also has an open Takata recall and a recall for a tire issue that could lead to an accident.

"It says it may lead to tire overloading and possibly cause tire failure and increase the risk of a crash. Did you know that about your car," Pastrana asked.

"No, no. I just put ib new tires," he said.

Of the hundreds of open recalls reviewed by CBS4 News, most were for problems that could cause a loss of steering or engine failure.

While recall fixes are free and usually take only a day or so, drivers who rely on their cars to make a living say they can't afford to have their vehicles out of service.

Orlando Gonzalez says he drives 13 to 14 hours a day for Uber. His car has an open recall for a problem with his seatbelts and airbags.

"What am I going to do," he asked. "I have to work."

Gonzalez said he wants to get it fixed, but can't risk losing income if his car is in the shop for too long.

Pastrana contacted Uber and Lyft and asked about their recall policies.

Uber says it takes an active role in alerting drivers to check the recall status of their vehicles and that drivers in Miami-Dade must have their vehicles inspected before signing up with the service.

Lyft provided a statement which says, in part, "drivers have a strong personal incentive to make sure their car is in a safe operating condition."

The Miami-Dade County Transportation Department says taxis are inspected annually and are taken out of service if a safety issue is discovered.

So what can you do as a passenger?

For starters, before you get in a car, you can run the license plate through a free checker like the one on the Carfax app or on SaferCar.Gov.

Of course, drivers can use them, too.

"It's really scary that there are so many vehicles on the road that are still under recall that haven't been fixed yet," said Jason Turchin, a consumer product attorney based out of Weston.

Turchin, whose law firm has sued Takata and car manufacturers in the past, says passengers do have some recourse in the event of an accident.

"If a passenger gets hurt in a ride-sharing vehicle because of an open recall that should have been fixed, the driver should be responsible, under Florida law to pay for all damages for that passengers," Turchin said. "If they truly care about the passengers, over profit, then they should get their vehicles fixed."

A quick note about rental cars. Thanks to a law that took effect last summer, rental car companies are now required to fix any recalled car before it's rented out. They didn't have to do that before.

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