EDISON - In the past week, we've heard a lot about that Takata airbag recall that now affects 42 million cars in the U.S. But a Kane In Your Corner investigation finds hundreds of thousands of New Jersey drivers may never have been informed about other open recalls that exist on their vehicles right now, often for serious defects.

The Kane In Your Corner team spent one day asking drivers if they were aware of recalls on their vehicles, and offering to check the government's recall database on their behalf. About 15 percent of the vehicles had at least one open recall, some for potentially life-threatening issues. A 2013 Hyundai Sonata had a recall notice for a transmission cable that could detach and cause the car to "move in an unintended or unexpected direction, increasing the risk of a crash." A 2010 Lexus sedan had a fuel gasket that, if not repaired, "could increase the risk of a vehicle fire." Several vehicles had faulty steering columns that could cause drivers to lose control.

George Parigian, of Ocean Township, was surprised to learn that he has three open recalls on his 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee. The recall notices cover the brakes, the airbag sensor, and a sun visor vanity lamp that could short circuit and catch fire. Parigian says he thought he might have one open recall, for the Takata airbag, but that recall actually does not apply to his vehicle, according to the government database.

New Jersey has 3.6 million registered cars, so if Kane In Your Corner's findings are any indication, hundreds of thousands of New Jersey drivers could be unaware of open recalls.

Cathleen Lewis, of AAA, says part of the problem is that automakers only are required to mail recall notices to the original owner. Second owners must find out about recalls on their own, by checking the government's recall website or, in some cases, from media reports. She believes the system needs to be improved.

"Even your viewers today, they'll probably go right on their computer, check out their recall and then they won't think about it for another year or two," Lewis tells News 12 New Jersey. "And in that time, there could be two or three more recalls. So we have to find better ways to keep people apprised of how to keep their cars safe."

To check your car for recalls: www.safercar.gov.