In a letter sent to U.S. regulators on Monday, the Center for Auto Safety claimed to have linked 143 fatalities to airbag failures in 2003-2010 model year Chevy Impalas.
About the Chevy Impala Airbag Failures
“This is a design defect in every GM vehicle with the flawed algorithm.” – Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety as published by Bloomberg News
According to the Bloomberg News, the Center for Auto Safety reviewed crash data collected from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) fatal-crash database and was able to link 143 deaths to frontal collisions in which an Impala’s airbags failed to deploy.
Further, the Washington-based watchdog group was able to determine that 98 of the fatalities involved occupants who were wearing seatbelts at the time of the collision.
The Center for Auto Safety also cited a government petition by a former GM researcher who claims to have found a software fault that can misread a passenger’s weight and disable frontal airbags.
In his petition, Donald Friedman calls on the NHTSA to open an investigation into whether GM’s electronic algorithms can interfere with or inhibit airbag deployment. Additionally, he is asking the federal regulator to investigate whether incorrect data can be produced if a passenger is bumped out of their seat.
Lawsuit Filed by Texas Family
Friedman has since been hired by the family of a man killed in 2011 after an Impala’s passenger-side airbag failed to deploy during a collision with a road barrier.
During the April accident, Aurora Martinez was driving a 2008 Impala along a Texas highway in Mission Hidalgo County when she was struck by another driver. Her sedan went over a road barrier and struck another barrier head-on.
The passenger-side airbag failed to deploy during the collision, allegedly resulting in the death of her husband, Robert Martinez.
Information from the car’s data recorded revealed that the passenger-side airbag did not deploy because it had registered Roberto Martinez as a small adult – he weighed 170 pounds.
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More about the Deadly Crash
Reports say Foutch was driving a GMC Yukon WB when he rear-ended another vehicle. The impact from the crash pushed the Buick Century off the road and into a utility pole.
The driver of the Buick, Rebecca Marie Sterry had to be transported by helicopter to a nearby hospital with severe injuries. Sterry was nine months pregnant at the time of the crash. She later gave birth to a baby girl delivered by an emergency C-section. Sterry’s husband, Jesse, was a passenger in the vehicle at the time of the crash. He was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.
Authorities took Foutch to a hospital for a blood draw and later arrested him for operating a vehicle while intoxicated causing death.
Nationwide Alcohol-Impaired Driving Statistics
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an estimated 31% of all motor vehicle traffic fatalities in the U.S. are caused by alcohol-related crashes. In 2011, there were 9,878 people killed in crashes involving a driver with a BAC of .08 or higher. In Indiana that year, 207 fatalities were recorded in accidents involving alcohol-impaired drivers.
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As plaintiffs wait to hear a judge’s decision on an emergency motion for mandatory injunction in the General Motors recall that would compel the automaker to ground recalled vehicles, documents filed in the case confirm 12 of the deaths linked to the defective ignition switches.
Details of the New Document
In the new documents, General Motors acknowledges the following:
- A defect which “may exist” in some of the recalled vehicles due to the ignition switches “in certain Recall Vehicles” not meeting GM torque specifications. The result is the ignition switch may “under certain conditions” be moved from the “run” position to the “accessory” or “off” position.
- GM has identified eight frontal-impact crashes involving 2003-2007 Saturn Ions which may have been caused by the ignition switch defect. Four of the crashes resulted in four fatalities.
- GM had also identified 23 frontal-impact crashes involving 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalts and 2007 Pontiac G5s which may have been caused by the ignition switch defect. Six of those crashes resulted in eight fatalities.
The document also confirms that replacement parts will be shipped to dealers this week and repairs will begin soon after. GM estimates the timeframe for repairs to be completed by October 2014.
Judge Needs More Time
U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos heard arguments on behalf of the plaintiffs and GM on Friday. Judge Ramos said she needed more time to consider information.
If granted, the “park it now” motion would compel GM to tell owners of recalled vehicles not to drive them until repairs are made.
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