"I received a knock from two troopers," Cherie Sharkey said. "They explained that there was a car accident with a fatality, and I lost it.

Cherie's son Michael was returning home from a fishing trip June 21, 2012 in the used 2006 Chevy Cobalt he'd purchased a week earlier.

"The ignition switch recall," Cherie said. "Where the car could automatically stop."

Cherie said her son wasn't notified about the recall when he bought the car at a local used car dealership.

Michael Sharkey was one of 109 people killed in accidents caused by faulty ignition switches. More than 200 others were injured.

A crash test video, seen in the video above, shows the problem.

In 2014, General Motors recalled model year 2005 to 2007 Chevy Cobalts with faulty ignition switches like the one in Michael's car.

"It is unconscionable to sell a vehicle with a GM ignition switch, that should be recalled, out into the public," said Jason Levine, the executive director of the Center for Auto Safety. "It is essentially you're taking someone's life in your hands when you put that car back on the road.

Car dealerships aren't the only culprits selling cars with active recalls. They're actually being sold at more than 50 city- and state-run auctions a year.

We went to three with over 200 vehicles and found 25 with open recalls for dangerous defects.

One in Ridge on Long Island is run by the state.

We ran a car's Vehicle Identification Number, to find out what the recall was. It used to be a fleet vehicle for the State Department of Environmental Conservation. It has a Takata airbag inside and you wouldn't know it by taking a look at the recall notice that's on its windshield.

The Takata airbags recall began in May of 2015, after six people were killed. That number would soon grow to 23, and 180 others were injured. It was the largest auto recall in U.S. history — 3.3 million faulty airbag inflators in cars from 14 different automakers.

"Why is it so important for you to get this recall fixed?" I asked a man who was considering purchasing the car that used to be a fleet vehicle for the State Department of Environmental Conservation.

"I got an eight-year-old, ten-year-old, 12-year-old. That's the most important, obviously, for that reason," he said. "I'm glad you told me about it, I didn't know that.

Cameras aren't allowed into one city sheriff's auction in Springfield Gardens in Queens, so we went undercover and found several cars with the dangerous defects but no recall notices.

"If I was to drive this car, the airbag would explode in my face," one man outside of the auction said about one of the cars.

Miller: You think that they should tell you about these recalls, what specifically on the car needs to be fixed?

New Yorker: They should be more specific when they have cars that have damage and not trick people.  

Buyers like these auctions because the prices are below market. They think the vehicles are safe because they're government-run auctions.

Used car sales climbed to an all-time high of 39.2 million vehicles in 2017.

"They can all, unfortunately, have open recalls on them without any direct penalty," Levine said.

There's no federal law requiring used car sellers to fix or disclose safety recalls the way new car sellers must.

"City and state governments have a responsibility to protect their citizenry," Levine said.

Just hours after we approached the city and state for answers about these serious safety issues, they both promised to make swift changes.

The city sheriff's office said it is updating their website, allowing buyers to check for recalls.

The state took it a step further, saying it will post recall notices online, on cars, and the auctioneer will announce the recalls.

"Selling these cars with recalls, just to make a buck?" Cherie said. "Shame on them."


NHTSA website to enter a vehicle's VIN

See J.D. Power's website for a list of car recalls.