First Fatal Crash Tied to Defective GM Switch Involved 16-Year-Old Maryland Driver
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First Fatal Crash Tied to Defective GM Switch Involved 16-Year-Old Maryland Driver

Friday, March 24, 2017By Richard Alexander

In 2005, Amber Marie Rose, a 16-year-old girl from Maryland, would not come home after she crashed her 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt into a tree. On that fateful day, her airbags did not deploy. Had those airbags been functioning correctly, Amber may have survived.

At the time, Amber’s family did not know why the airbags failed to inflate. It was nearly nine years after her fatal crash when her family learned that the airbags were disabled because of a defective ignition switch.

Despite being aware in 2005 of Amber’s fatal crash and its possible connection to a defective ignition switch, GM did not open an investigation to examine the faulty switches. Nearly 10 years later—after what is now known as the first fatal crash related to defective ignition switches and several unnecessary deaths and injuries—GM finally issued a recall of millions of vehicles.

The ignition switches on the affected vehicles were easily jiggled to turn the vehicle off while driving, when the ignition is obviously expected to stay in the “on” position. When a vehicle is turned off, the power steering, power braking, and lifesaving airbags are disabled.

Even though Amber’s fatal crash was almost 10 years earlier, her family was able to sue GM for their loss when they learned her airbags failed because of the defective ignition switch. The case was settled before going to trial. Amber’s mother “was appalled that it took them nearly 10 years and so many more people died in the process,” before they finally alerted the public to the safety issue and recalled the vehicles.

GM was held responsible for its actions in failing to report the safety issue by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NHTSA assessed GM with a $35 million penalty as well as tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of additional penalties for its lack of cooperation in the investigation with the NHTSA.


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