May 21, 2015 – 7:29 am ET
WASHINGTON (Bloomberg) — Hundreds of thousands of car owners who were urged to check a government website and see if their airbags are safe have overwhelmed the site and U.S. regulators say it might take several days before the database is fully accessible.
Even for some of the people who were able to get through, complete vehicle-identification number information related to the recall of a record 34 million cars wasn’t available, and won’t be for several days, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Traffic on the website as of 4 p.m. Wednesday was 62 times a normal day, the agency said.
“We’re working with the automakers to provide that information as quickly as possible,” a NHTSA spokesman, Gordon Trowbridge, said in an e-mail. He urged people to be patient.
Supplier Takata Corp. agreed Tuesday to double the number of vehicles covered by a recall to fix potentially faulty airbags that can shoot shrapnel at drivers and front-seat passengers. It could ultimately become the largest industrywide automotive recall in U.S. history.
After the 2 p.m. announcement on Tuesday, traffic on NHTSA’s vehicle- identification number page surged to 598,000 searches, up from an average of 9,662 per day last week, according to NHTSA.
The previous record in a single day was 110,000 searches, the agency said.
This is at least the second time in seven months that the agency suffered a website meltdown.
In October, shortly after Honda Motor Co. expanded a related airbag recall for 8 million vehicles, the search function was inoperable for days as the regulator sorted through software changes rolled out right before the announcement.
The agency said it took steps to bolster the website, including moving other functions to separate servers ahead of the Tuesday announcement. The preparation allowed it to handle “traffic far in excess of even our busiest previous daily record,” Trowbridge said.
The agency planned to add additional capacity later Wednesday, Trowbridge said.
Even once consumers get access to the site, it could be a long wait to get their cars repaired. With vehicles from 11 different automakers and a shortage of repair parts, it could take years for all the cars to be made safe, NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said at a news conference Tuesday.
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