The Low Post News

Watchdog Says Over 300 Deaths in Cars that Air Bags did not Deploy

General Motors continued to have pressure mount late Thursday as federal crash information was reviewed that found 303 drivers as well as passengers in the front seat died during vehicle accidents in which the vehicle’s air bags did not inflate in two vehicle models the U.S. automaker recall in February.

The review was conducted by the Friedman Research Corporation and commissioned by the consumer group Center for Auto Safety. The center accused GM and federal safety regulators of not aggressively pursuing complaints over faulty ignition switches, which have caused cars to stall which disables their air bags when there is a collision.

GM during February announced it was recalling over 1.61 million vehicles that needed a defective part repaired, which GM said had played some part in the deaths of 12 people. Previously the automaker said it was 13 deaths.

The review said that fatal accidents recorded in FARS – Fatality Analysis Reporting System database involved only two of six different models that had been recalled. The models were the Chevrolet Cobalt 2005-2007 and the Saturn Ion 2003-2007.

The center announced that if an evaluation of the other models were done that had been recalled, the number of deaths would be much higher.

In his letter addressed to the NHTSA – the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Clarence Ditlow the center’s executive director criticized the agency saying it did not do enough to uncover the flaws in the ignition and demand there be a recall. Ditlow said red flags were missed by the NHTSA stretching back over 10 years.

The NHTSA defended its actions saying that earlier it had launched three separate investigations regarding the accidents. However, the regulatory agency said the probes did not find the cause of those accidents amidst a blur of complicating factors and complaints, including a new type of bag being introduced close to the time of the first suspicious crashes.

GM said the analysis by Friedman did not conclude why the bags did not inflate in those fatal accidents.

The problem with the switches in the ignition and the time passed prior to a recall order have put the agency and GM in the crosshairs of investigators.

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