Timothy Moore
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Mandatory NHTSA Labels to Distinguish Recalls from Junk Mail

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Because it’s a rough life living in the trashcan

Let me paint you a picture that you’ll likely find all too familiar. You get home from work, exhausted, and head to the mailbox before going inside (unless, of course, you’re a mailman, because I imagine you deliver your own mail straight to yourself…right?). You grab the pile of useless junk and devil-spawned bills and begin shuffling through the stack as you step inside and push your ill-mannered dog back to the ground. Before you’ve even made it to the kitchen table to throw your keys down, you’ve collected a fair amount of papers to go straight into the garbage, begging the question, “Haven’t advertisers ever heard of e-mail anyways?”

Unfortunately, there’s a slight but not impossible chance that that stack of junk mail you’re aiming at the garbage could actually contain highly important recall information about your current vehicle from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). You see, advertisers are tricky people (as trustworthy as Jon Hamm looks, do not believe a word he says), so they’ve gotten pretty good at making their junk mail look exactly like safety recall notices you receive from automakers in the mail.

Jon Hamm mandatory NHTSA labels

Don’t ever trust a man in advertising, even if he’s as awesome as Jon Hamm.

There are two problems with this, however. If you’re like me (you know, super intelligent with rugged good looks), instead of thinking these recalls are important and opening them, you begin to associate nearly all mail as junk mail, and are likely to throw away the recall information under the assumption that somebody’s just trying to sell you something. The other problem is just the opposite: some people believe the claims made in the junk mail mimicking recall notices and end up spending thousands on costly products and services their cars don’t need.

Either way, this is not good.

That’s why the NHTSA is now requiring that automakers use mandatory NHTSA labels on all recall notices. It is hoped that recipients will take notice of and open these pieces of mail.

Mandatory NHTSA labels

The all-new mandatory NHTSA labels

“Recalls only work if consumers are aware of them,” explained Anthony Foxx, U.S. Transportation Secretary, in a statement. “This new label will allow consumers to quickly recognize recall notices mailed to their homes so they can act quickly to get their vehicles, child restraints, tires, or other motor vehicle equipment fixed.”

The mandatory NHTSA labels aren’t the only new trick up the safety administration’s sleeve, however. Yesterday, the NHTSA also launched an app for Android users to receive safety information, including recall alerts, for their vehicles. This app is already available on the iOS platform. Using the app, drivers can also submit complaints about possible safety issues.

Be sure to check out the app, and keep your eyes peeled for the new, big, obnoxious labels in the mail. They could just save your life—or at least your checkbook.

  • Timothy MooreManaging Editor

    Timothy Moore hails from Dayton, Ohio, and tries to bring that Midwestern flavor to his writing. (But as it turns out, no one really likes the Midwestern flavor.) He has been covering the auto industry for years, with several national auto shows under his belt, but he’s been writing about lots of other things (like dragons and Mickey Mouse and cows drowning in milk) since he was just a tot. Outside of the land of cars, Timothy enjoys watching The Office and consuming excessive amounts of peanut butter and beer, and is on the board of an up-and-coming Dayton theatre company called The Playground. And when he’s not on stage (or three jars into a peanut butter binge), Timothy spends time with his mischievous dog, Greyson. See more articles by Timothy.