GM Recall Disproportionately Affected Young Drivers


The installation of a single ignition switch could have saved dozens of young lives and spared many more the heartache of life-altering injuries, according to federal lawmakers and regulators probing a decade-long delay in a General Motors recall of some 2 million vehicles. 

As investigators sift through the evidence and comb over the recent testimony of GM CEO Mary Barra and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Acting Administrator David Friedman, one fact is becoming apparent: The defect in the affected models appears to have disproportionately impacted young drivers.

West Palm Beach car accident attorneys understand that this is primarily because the affected models, like the Saturn Ion and the Chevrolet Cobalt , were specifically marketed to young, first-time buyers and parents who were seeking a vehicle for their children.

The danger of the vehicle defect was reportedly compounded by the fact that inexperienced drivers tended to panic when the ignition switches shut off the engine while the car was moving. In those cases, the power-assisted steering and power brake capabilities are lost. The air bags did not inflate. Extra effort must be used to control the vehicle. This situation would be extremely frightening for any driver, but most especially for someone lacking experience.

Drivers in older generations may be familiar with what it’s like to operate a vehicle that doesn’t have power-steering capabilities. But most cars manufactured today come standard with this feature, so younger drivers would not likely have any idea how to react if it’s suddenly lost.

So far, the company has linked 13 fatalities to the issue. Other analysts have put the total much higher. But regardless of who is counting, one fact remains: Most of the victims were women under the age of 25. Officials say that this group also would have lacked the sheer upper body strength necessary to safely wrestle a stalled vehicle to the roadside.

Only now are we learning what GM apparently knew for the last 10 years. Internal documents reveal the company was aware during all this time that the ignition switches were dangerous and that they were causing safety issues. And yet, it didn’t begin to recall some 2.6 million cars until this February.

The current CEO, who herself has two teenagers, says only that internal procedures to address these kinds of problems were lacking within the company. She said an outside attorney has been hired to review them.

But parents and young drivers placed their trust in GM, probably in no small part due to the fact that GM model vehicles had maintained four- and five-star ratings in the majority of government crash tests.

Ads for these vehicles showed youthful drivers behind the wheel. They showed motorists leaving high school or college campuses.

And didn’t hurt that they were also cheap, some $1,000 to $3,500 less than the cost of the two best-selling small car models – the Honda Civic and the Toyota Corolla.

Meanwhile, many young drivers – and their parents – reported on issues of the car stalling out while they were in the middle of intersections or on the freeway.

Amid a series of complaints, GM issued a statement in 2005 indicating that people could still steer and brake without power systems. However, the company refused to acknowledge the extent of the problem – or issue a recall – until just this  year.

If you have been injured in an accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at 888-751-7770 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.