In Brief: What You Need To Know About The G.m. Safety Recall

One of the biggest news stories here in Michigan and around the country has been the General Motors safety recall and related investigation. If you haven’t had a chance to follow the story you may be particularly curious about what exactly the problem is (especially if you own a G.M. car).

Unfortunately, this case appears to be another incident of an automaker jeopardizing public safety by trying to keep a serious defect secret and ultimately delaying a recall. Even when speaking at Congressional hearings, G.M.’s new CEO Mary Barra exasperated some legislators by answering many questions by giving her assurance that G.M. is “looking into it.”

The full details of the case may take some time to sort out, but here’s what readers may need to know right now. The defect affecting as many as 2.6 million cars involves a faulty ignition switch. It is essentially too easy to accidentally turn the key from “run” (on) to “accessory” (in between on and off). The amount of force needed to turn the key is so small that having extra keys on the same ring as the ignition key can turn off the car.

This can even happen while the car is being driven. And when it does, the engine and electrical system can be turned off, which also seems to disable important safety features like air bags, power steering and power brakes.

What makes this recall especially scandalous is that G.M. may have known about the defect as long ago as 2001. Thus far, 13 deaths and many more car accidents have been attributed to the defect.

If you own a G.M. car and have not already done so, please go online to see if your vehicle is one of the models and years included in the recall. If it is, you should be aware that driving your vehicle may not be safe until or unless the defect is fixed. Finally, if you are a car accident victim and believe the crash may have been related to the ignition switch defect (or any other factory defects), please share your concerns with an experienced personal injury attorney.

Source: The New York Times, "Understanding Particulars of G.M.’s Safety Recall," Ann Carns, April 4, 2014

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