This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx says it isn't a problem if the owners of 2.6-million recalled General Motors cars keep driving them, despite a request from two Senators to order the cars off the roads. The GM cars, including Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions, have faulty ignition switches the have been linked with 13 deaths and dozens of other accidents, when the cars shut down while in motion.
Though Senators Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut urged Foxx to say publicly that the cars should not be driven until they are repaired, Foxx replied that "such an action is not necessary at this time." Foxx has said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration "is satisfied for now" that current recommendations will keep drivers safe.
GM has instructed drivers who haven't yet brought their cars in for repair to remove other keys and fobs from their car key rings, so that the ignition key is the only key near the ignition switch when the car is in motion. The weight from extra keys and fobs is thought to contribute to the problem, by causing the faulty ignition switch to move from the "on" position to "accessory," thereby turning off the engine. When this occurs, it can result in power steering and brakes not operating properly, and then (if the driver loses control) the air bags not going off in a crash.
Senators Blumenthal and Markey did not take kindly to Foxx's suggestion, responding to his statement, "We remain extremely concerned that GM and NHTSA are not doing enough to convey the seriousness of this defect to owners of the affected cars, unnecessarily putting more lives at risk."
The Senators remain concerned about alternative causes to the ignition switch issue. GM warned drivers that rough roads may have been the issue. Foxx does not believe this is the issue, citing a test GM performed in which cars went over potholes, panic stops, and railroads without experiencing the ignition switch issue. He believes the success of these tests "supports GM's position that the subject vehicles are safe to operate", as long as your key fob is not attached, of course.
To find out if your vehicle has been affected by this recall, check out GM's safety website.