Imagine driving down the Interstate at 70 miles per hour and your car suddenly shuts off, disabling power steering and power brakes, and preventing airbags from deploying. That’s exactly what can happen if you’re driving one of the 1.6 million cars that have recently been recalled by General Motors.
The problem that can create this deadly situation is a “faulty ignition switch.” If your key ring is too heavy, or if your keys are bumped while in the ignition, the ignition can switch from the “on” position to the “accessory” or “off” position, causing the car to stall, disabling electrical components and airbags.
According to GM, the faulty switch is linked to at least 31 crashes and 12 deaths; however, this number may be inaccurate. According to a letter from the Center for Auto Safety to the N.H.T.S.A., (a copy of which can be read at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/13/business/gm-reveals-it-was-told-of-ignition-defect-in-01.html?_r=0), an examination of data shows as many as 303 deaths could be linked to the faulty ignition switches in the recalled cars.
What is particularly disturbing is the fact that it appears from news reports that GM knew about the faulty switch as early as 2001, but did not issue a recall until 2014. They have now offered to fix the defect or pay $500 to those who want to purchase a 2013 or 2014 GM car. Unfortunately, the fix, which only costs between $2-$5, comes a little too late for many people who have been injured or lost their lives as a result of the defect.
One such loss occurred four years ago, a 29-year old nurse in Georgia was killed when her Chevrolet Cobalt crashed. It was found that the engine was not running and the switch was in the “accessory” position. To see more about this tragic loss and an explanation of how the ignition can slip into the off position, go to http://www.cbsnews.com/news/another-fatal-crash-may-be-linked-to-gm-ignition-switch-defect/.
All of the cars recalled thus far for this particular defect are 7 years old or older, which could present a problem notifying current owners, since many of the cars are probably now owned by second or third parties who may be difficult to locate.
So what should you do if you own one of the recalled vehicles?
GM will fix the problem free of charge, but the fix won’t be available until April 7th.; Therefore, owners should immediately separate their vehicle key from their key fob, any other keys or a key ring and use only your car key while driving. In addition, you should be careful not to accidentally bump the key while driving. If you are uncomfortable driving your car, GM dealers are supposed to provide rentals free of charge until the fix is available. Owners, however, are required to contact the dealer about any loaners.
Following is a list of recalled GM cars affected by the Faulty Ignition Switch:
- 2005 – 2007 Chevrolet Colbalt and Pontiac G5
- 2003 – 2007 Saturn Ion
- 2006 – 2007 Chevrolet HHR
- 2006 – 2007 Pontiac Solstice
- 2007 Saturn Sky