WASHINGTON Two Democratic U.S. senators on Monday called on the Department of Transportation to urge owners of 2.6 million recalled General Motors cars to stop driving them until they are repaired, which could take months as dealerships wait for replacement ignition switches.
Senators Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, who serve on the Senate Commerce Committee investigating GM regarding its safety problem, wrote Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx urging him to act.
"GM has indicated that it could take until October, 2014, before it can complete all the needed repairs," the senators wrote. "Every day that unrepaired vehicles remain on the road increases the risk of more injuries, deaths and damage."
The recalled autos can stall unexpectedly because of faulty ignition switches. At least 13 deaths have been linked to the problem, which also makes power steering and power brakes malfunction and stops airbags from deploying during crashes.
Transportation Department officials were not immediately available for comment on the senators' request.
On April 17, a federal judge refused to order GM to tell customers to stop driving cars that have been recalled because of the defective switches.
The owners of a recalled 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt had sought an emergency order directing GM to issue "park it now" notices.
The Detroit automaker, which has known about the troubled ignition switches for more than a decade before ordering recalls earlier this year, maintains the cars are safe to operate as long as there are no added keys or fobs hanging from the ignition switch key. However, the company also acknowledges increased risk of ignition switch malfunctions when traveling on rough roads.
Senate and House of Representatives committees are probing why it took GM so long to order the recalls and who within GM management made the decisions.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Dan Grebler)