Transportation Safety Expert Witnesses & GM Recall

A transportation safety expert witness testified in the case against General Motors brought by the parents of Brooke Melton. The expert reported that information recorded in the black box in the fatal accident showed the key had slipped from the “on” to the “accessory” position three seconds before the accident, shutting off her power steering and power brakes.

On April 1, 2014, General Motors’ CEO Mary Barra will testify before a congressional subcommittee about the widening safety recall on GM pre-2008 ignition switches. Ignition switches moving from the “run” position to the “accessory” or “off” position during a crash may disable the air bag sensing system. The recall follows 12 deaths and 31 crashes in 2005-07 Chevrolet Cobalts, 2003-07 Saturn Ions and several other pre-2008 models with the same ignition switch. As a precaution, NHTSA urges owners of recalled GM vehicles – 2005-07 Chevrolet Cobalt, 2007 Pontiac G5, 2003-07 Saturn Ion, 2006-07 Chevrolet HHR, 2006-07 Pontiac Solstice, 2007 Saturn Sky – to follow GM recommendation to “use only the ignition key with nothing else on the key ring” and get repairs as soon as parts are available from GM.

Here is the NHTSA Office of Defects Investigation TQ 14-001:

In its letter dated February 7, 2014, GM notified NHTSA that it has determined that a defect, which relates to motor vehicle safety, exists in 619,122 model year (MY) 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalt and MY 2007 Pontiac G5 vehicles. The safety defect concerns a condition in which the vehicle’s ignition switch may unintentionally move from the “run” position to the “accessory” or “off” position resulting in a loss of power. This risk may be increased if the key ring is carrying added weight or the vehicle goes off road or experiences some other impact related event. In some cases, the timing of the ignition switch movement relative to the activation of the sensing algorithm of the crash event may result in the airbags not deploying.

In its letter dated February 24, 2014, GM amended the original recall letter to include a more detailed 573.6(c)(6) section outlining the chronology of principal events with the added Attachment B. On February 25, 2014, GM submitted another letter covering additional models/model year vehicles due to the same safety defect. The specific additional vehicles include the MY 2006-2007 Chevrolet HHR and Pontiac Solstice, MY 2003-2007 Saturn Ion and MY 2007 Saturn Sky vehicles totaling another 748,024 vehicles. Together, these recall actions affect a total population of 1,367,146 vehicles. Based on General Motor’s chronology of events, this TQ is opened to evaluate the timing of GM’s defect decisionmaking and reporting of the safety defect to NHTSA.

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