NHTSA chief says it's 'likely' more than 13 died due to GM ignition switch

One of the major points of contention in the GM ignition switch debacle has centered around just how many people were killed due to the problem. GM claimed, and continues to claim, that 13 people have been killed. Safety advocates and lawyers, though, are arguing that the final total will likely be higher.

Of course, we've been down this road before. Back when details of the ignition switch problem first came to light, reports poured out that the actual death tally was around 300, rather than 13. While that figure was quickly discredited, the number being stated by GM has hardly been firm. Now, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is weighing in.

"We believe it's likely that more than 13 lives were lost," said David Friedman, acting head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, according to The Wall Street Journal. "GM knew about the safety defect, but did not act to protect Americans from that defect until this year. The families and friends of those lost in the crashes ... deserve straight answers about what happened to their loved ones."

While NHTSA doesn't seem willing to put an exact number on the total deaths due to the recall, safety advocate Clarence Ditlow (pictured above with an ignition switch) isn't so reserved, claiming the tally will, eventually, hit 100.

"My estimate is based on my reading of NHTSA's own reports which show similar accidents where the air bags haven't deployed," Ditlow told the WSJ. "It just makes sense the number would be higher."

More than just safety advocates and regulators, GM itself has a vested interest in figuring out exactly how many deaths can be blamed on the ignition switch problem. The final figure is essential to setting up a victims' fund, while family members need to know whether the death or injury of their loved one was due to GM's mistake. This latest story is far from the last we'll hear about this.

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