The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has proposed new rules that would require carmakers to notify owners about safety recalls via email or other electronic means. The proposed rules, which were published in the Federal Register and are not yet official, are intended to increase the number of owners who have critical recall repairs performed on their cars, and to ensure that happens sooner.

Automakers are already required to use first-class mail to send recall notices to car owners, but the new rules would force them to also send an electronic version. That could be via email, though NHTSA notes automakers could send many types of electronic messages: perhaps through the car’s infotainment system, via text message, or even through social media.

The new rules come as the government agency grapples with an increasing number of large recalls that pose serious harm to consumers if unrepaired – the General Motors ignition-switch and Takata airbag recalls being prime examples. According to Automotive News, recall rates general range from 55 to 75 percent, depending on the vehicle and the problem; NHTSA wants that figure to be closer to 100 percent. Over the past five years, 169 million U.S. cars have been recalled.

As proof that this system could make a difference, NHTSA cites Tesla. The electric-car manufacturer informs all its customers of recalls by email two weeks before mailing notices. According to NHTSA, 30 percent of Tesla owners had already had recall work completed by the time the physical notices arrived in their mailboxes.

The bottom line is that getting more recalled cars fixed more promptly will pay big dividends in terms of safety for all drivers.

“The public at large will benefit from a decrease in the numbers of defective or noncompliant vehicles on public roads,” NHTSA said, “and, concurrently, a decrease in the incident or risk of incident of injuries and fatalities associated with those defects and failures to comply.”

Sources: Automotive News, The Federal Register