General Motors has been under fire recently for recalls involving a faulty ignition switch. A failed ignition can cause a car to lose power, unexpectedly turn off the engine, or make it difficult to steer, leading to potential accidents. Ignition failure could also prevent air bags from deploying, exacerbating injuries suffered in accidents.
Although these faulty ignition switches have currently only been linked to 12 deaths and 34 crashes, this does not take into account many accidents that might have unknowingly been caused by ignition failure. It is believed that these incidents could have been avoided had GM acted sooner.
Eight of the twelve known deaths were attributed to the Chevrolet Cobalt, and the other four were connected to the Saturn Ion.
In all, recalls have affected 1.6 million GM vehicles. Although the recalls began in February of 2014, GM first noticed potential problems with its ignition switches in 2001. Subsequent consumer complaints of Cobalts and Ions with stalling problems did not prompt GM to issue a recall, although in 2006 GM did redesign the ignition switch. The redesigned part was not given a new part number, so employees investigating complaints of cars stalling did not know that there had been an issue with the ignition switch.
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut recently authored a letter to GM’s Chief Executive in which he urged GM to warn drivers of the recalled vehicles not to drive those cars because of the serious risks. Senator Blumenthal has also followed some consumer groups and other lawmakers by asking GM to compensate victims of accidents related to the defective ignition switches.
According to GM, the cars are safe to drive if the ignition key is not attached to any other keys, key fobs, or keychains that could affect the operation of the ignition switch.