General Motors (GM) have reportedly ignored numerous complaints about dangerous car shutdowns due to insufficient evidence that warrants investigation. The shutdowns might have caused a number of serious accidents and deaths in the past.
Since 2003, GM has received a total of 260 complaints from its consumers about their vehicles suddenly shutting down while on the road. However, it failed to act on it because there was insufficient evidence that merits safety investigation.
The New York Times made an analysis on the complaints filed to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and found that several complaints narrated scary situations such as the cars suddenly stalling on freeways, while crossing railroads, or in the middle of city traffic.
However, for an investigation to commence, the case must pass a legal test of "unreasonable risk to safety" first. "That term 'reasonable' is a legal term, which is very elastic and means a lot of different things in a lot of different contexts," said NHTSA chief counsel Kevin Vincent to N.Y Times. "Each case is a different fact pattern."
GM spokesperson Greg Martin, on the other hand, clarified that they did not ignore the complaints. He argued that they were monitoring the complaints filed, but he did not disclose more when asked about the ignition switch failures.
Non-recognition of the fact pattern in each complaint has been a problem for the NHTSA, which prompted the Congress to pass a law requiring automakers to report on any complaint they receive concerning injuries and deaths linked to vehicle defects.
In defense of the agency, a spokesperson from NHTSA emailed the N.Y Times and said that they use "a number of tools and techniques to gather and analyze data and look for trends that warrant a vehicle safety investigation and possibly a recall." The process of finding a pattern, which is done by "well-seasoned automotive engineers," led to 929 recalls of over 55 million vehicles.