NHTSA Admits to Failing to Properly Investigate Defective GM Ignition Switches
Although it is still undecided whether or not General Motors will be facing criminal charges over their use of defective ignition switches and their delay in issuing a recall, the NHTSA has admitted to some fault in matter.
The NHTSA’s admission comes in light of reports by the Transportation Department’s Office of Inspector General and Government Accountability Office that don’t portray the safety administration in a flattering light. The NHTSA acknowledges they had multiple chances to discover the issue over the course of almost a decade, but failed to recognize the severity of the situation. They admit they didn’t adequately follow up on information from gathered from their own data and investigations and didn’t understand other theories about how the airbags worked. Since the NHTSA didn’t properly investigate the situation, they weren’t able to hold General Motors accountable sooner.
Mark Rosekind, head of the NHTSA, says there is no proof that any individual employees of the NHTSA were negligent in doing their job and nobody will be fired as a result of the reports. Lack of funding has been a problem for the NHTSA. Although the White House has proposed significantly increasing the NHTSA’s budget and giving them a larger staff to handle investigating defective products, no progress has been made on that.
Despite the fact that the NHTSA is admitting some fault in the handling of the situation, the majority of the blame is still falling on General Motors for not disclosing the defect sooner.
The defective ignition switches were used in millions of cars worldwide. The issue with the ignition switches is that it was possible for them to fall out of the “On” position and into “Off” under the weight of a heavy keychain or if the ignition was bumped by the driver’s knee, causing power steering and power brakes to fall, which could cause drivers to lose control of the car. Airbags also wouldn’t be able to deploy in this situation, so if a driver lost control of the car and got into an accident because the power steering suddenly went out, they were more likely to be severely injured or killed in the accident.
In August 2014, General Motors began accepting claims from victims who were injured or killed in accidents caused by the defective ignition switches. Claims that were approved would be paid out from a victim compensation fund set up by GM. Between August 2014 and the end of January 2015, 4,342 claims were submitted.
GM is still in the process of investigating the claims they’ve received. Currently, 111 deaths and 220 injuries have been officially linked to the faulty ignition switches. 191 claims are still being investigated and 1,393 claims were not submitted with enough supporting documentation for them to be investigated, but those claimants still have a chance to submit further documentation. Investigations are expected to be complete by the end of the summer.