General Motors Chevrolet Cobalt defect linked to 7 accidents in Massachusetts
Washington (February 26, 2014) – With news that GM has doubled the number of recalled Chevy Cobalt and other GM vehicles to more than 1.3 million due to an ignition switch defect that has reportedly killed 13 people, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today called on the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) to require auto manufacturers to provide detailed information to the agency when they first become aware of incidents involving fatalities. This reporting requirement could have enabled earlier identification of the General Motors (GM) Chevrolet Cobalt ignition switch defect that has reportedly caused thirteen deaths and at least seventeen injuries, some of which involved the failure of airbags to deploy because the engine had switched off at the time of the impact. GM reportedly knew about the safety problem for almost a decade. A CBS News investigation revealed that GM knew about fatal accidents in Maryland and Wisconsin in 2005 and 2006 that were attributable to the safety problem and notified dealers, but did not do a voluntary recall of the vehicles. There are also seven reports of Massachusetts accidents involving Cobalt airbags that resulted in nine injuries.
In his letter, Senator Markey asks NHTSA to use its authority to require companies to submit accident reports and other documents to NHTSA’S public early warming reporting database when they become aware of fatalities involving their vehicles. Senator Markey also requests the documents that GM provided to the NHTSA about the fatal accidents in Maryland and Wisconsin, documents related to the Massachusetts accidents that may be related to this defect, and other documents related to how NHTSA officials evaluated this defect when it became aware of it.
“The current Early Warning Reporting system is too little, too late,” Senator Markey, member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. “We need to overhaul the Early Warning Reporting system so that NHTSA is not looking at auto defects through a rearview mirror. Making more information public can help prevent accidents and deadly crashes, and I look forward to hearing from NHTSA on this important matter.”
A copy of the letter to NHTSA can be found HERE.
During House Energy and Commerce Committee consideration of a 2010 automobile safety bill, a version of a then-Rep. Markey-authored amendment was included that would have made more information about fatalities public in the Early Warning Reporting database. The bill passed Committee but was not enacted.