Over the past month the media has highlighted and "investigated" reports of fatal accidents related to the GM ignition recall. They've gone through all the court documents, talked to engineers, executives. And now Congress is spun up and ready to go forth and get to the bottom of things.

Yet for all the research and effort put into this topic many of the accidents presented in the media are not full reports of the accidents. Does the media fear that if they present facts that point to human error it could make them appear as if they'd taken the side of evil corporate America?


I took the first four accidents routinely mentioned by many of the news outlets and pulled the FARS data for those specific crashes and summarized it below.

My only agenda is to ensure that all the information, and not just cherry-picked headlines, are provided to the public. I'm not saying that an air bag that doesn't deploy is acceptable.

My grandfather once said, "Before you run to the streets, pitchfork in hand, be sure to have all the facts. Because when you're burning a witch at the stake, it's comforting to know you are in fact burning a witch."


Accident 1

October 24, 2006. St. Croix County, WI. FARS 2006: Crash no. 534

Summary: 17 year-old female driver of a 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt, driving in violation of learner's permit, ran off road right and struck a tree at 50MPH.

Fatalities: 2

Driver: Unbelted. Air bag did not deploy. Injuries: Incapacitating.

Passenger 1: Seated: front row, middle, unbelted. Injuries: Fatal.

Passenger 2: Seated: behind driver, unbelted. Injuries: Fatal.



Accident 2

October 16, 2007. Lyndhurst, OH. FARS 2007: Crash no. 970

Summary: 42 year-old female in a 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt traveling 75MPH in a 35MPH zone ran off the road right, struck a guardrail and two trees.

Fatalities: 1

Driver: Belted. Air bag did not deploy. Injuries: Fatal.



CORRECTION: Accident 3

September 13, 2008. Stevensville, MI. FARS 2008: Crash no. 560

Summary: At 3AM a 19 year-old male in a 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt driving 98MPH, "at an excessive amount of speed"* with a BAC of .12 and THC in his system, crossed the center line and struck a tree.

Driver: Belted. Air bag did not deploy. Injuries: Fatal.

Passenger: Front passenger seat, unbelted. Air bag did not deploy. Injuries: Fatal.


*The speed via FARS was indicated at 98 which is coded as note reported. According to news reports from 2008 the investigation determined that "excessive speed and alcohol" were factors in the crash.


Accident 4

April 4, 2009. Knox, PA. FARS 2009: Crash no. 0212

Summary: 49 year-old male, with a BAC of .24 traveling at 70MPH in a 55MPH zone driving a Hyundai Sonata crossed the centerline and struck a 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt driven by a 73 year-old female head on.

Fatalities: 3

Driver 1 (Hyundai): Unbelted. Air bag did deploy. Injuries: Fatal.

Driver 2 (Cobalt): Unbelted. Air bag did not deploy. Injuries: Fatal.

Passenger 1 (Cobalt): Front passenger, 13 year-old female. Unbelted. Air bag did not deploy. Injuries: Fatal.

Passenger 2 (Cobalt): 1 year-old male. Child seat. Injuries: Non-incapacitating


As you can see many of these fatalities involve an excessive rate of speed or improper use of seat belts, like not wearing one at all. That doesn't mean that the air bag shouldn't have deployed. But it would be wildly absurd (and irresponsible) to conclude that in these specific crashes an air bag deployment would have saved lives, as many journalists erroneously contend in their media-whoring headlines.