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GM ignition defects may be tied to traffic deaths

Earlier this year, General Motors began recalling multiple vehicle models due to faulty ignition switches. The decision to recall all Ions and Cobalts manufactured between 2003 and 2010 came after an internal investigation that took over two years to complete. The GM investigation found that heavy key rings or excessive movement could cause the defective ignition switches to come out of the "on" position while the cars were moving, which in turn cut off power and deactivated airbags.

GM's initial investigation identified 13 deaths that occurred due to the defective switches. A recent review of federal crash data by Reuters indicates, however, that the number may be much higher. In fact, Reuters was able to identify 74 deaths that occurred in situations very similar to those identified by GM.

Reuters examined the Fatality Analysis Reporting System – a national database of crash information – for accidents involving only one car where a person sitting in the front of the vehicle was killed after an airbag failed to deploy. The news agency compared these statistics for the Ion and Cobalt and compared them to models manufactured by other companies.

Reuters discovered that the incidence of these sorts of accidents involving the Ion was about six times higher than that for accidents involving the Toyota Corolla. For every 100,000 Ions sold, there were 5.9 fatal crashes of this type. For every 100,000 Cobalts sold, there were 4.1 fatal crashes. There were only about 1.0 crashes of this type per 100,000 Corollas sold.

One problem with the Reuters analysis is that it is unclear how many of these accidents involving GM cars occurred due to faulty ignition switches. The data in the FARS system is collected by local law enforcement agencies and, typically, does not include information about defective equipment. This means that some of the cases identified by Reuters where a death occurred due to a failed air bag may not have happened because of a defective ignition switch. Nevertheless, these sorts of accidents are far more common among GM vehicles, which seems to suggest the possibility of a connection.

Fortunately, those who purchase defective products, including automobiles, have legal options. If you believe that your new car, truck or other vehicle is defective, contact an experienced defective product attorney. An attorney who specializes in defective product cases can provide you with information about your options and outline possible next steps. For more information, speak to an attorney today.

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