Cars under a recall issue over faulty ignition switches can be still be driven safely before repairs, said General Motors, which based the conclusion on more than 80 tests, except one. GM has yet to tackle a concern that could shut off the engine -- a bump from a driver's knee -- and the lack of testing on this matter has undermine the carmaker’s claim of safety for its cars.
As early as 2004, GM engineers reported that the ignition switch could be shut off if the key was bumped by a knee. A Texas judge recently allowed the unrepaired GM cars still be driven despite objection of safety advocates and plaintiffs lawyers who claim that aside from repairs, there is no way to make sure the ignition switch would not shift out of the run position.
At least 13 deaths have been linked to accidents resulting from faulty ignition switches. GM has been saying the 2.6 million cars under recall ignition switch fixes are safe to drive, provided that they are driven with only one key on the key ring.
It remains unclear whether a driver's knee could still bump the ignition out of the "run" position when only a bare key is being used, instead of a key ring containing several keys and other attachments. GM said in Texas court filings that it conducted over 80 tests of driving with a bare key.
The tests included driving over a pothole measuring 4 feet wide,7 feet long and five inches deep at 25 miles per hour; driving up and over a 4-inch high simulated median at an angle; and driving a 4-mile loop "with a series of bumps, swells, railroad crossings" and other hazards at speeds of 25 to 75 miles per hour.
GM’s filing described tests wherein external forces bumped the car, internal ones like knee bumps. GM told Reuters that none of the tests included a direct force on the key from inside the car, like the driver's knee. GM spokesman Jim Cain said in a statement that the tests were conducted in March.