CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (CN) - More than 2.6 million vehicle owners affected by a General Motors recall will not face a "park it now" alert after a federal judge said highway-safety regulators deserve deference.
A defective ignition switch that can cause several car models to lose power and disable their air bags led GM in February to recall 2005-10 Chevy Cobalts and other vehicles.
Drivers reportedly trigger the flaw by having too much weight on their key rings, which can jog the ignition switch out of the run position.
Citing its commitment to safety, GM instructs drivers how to deal with the issue on its website: "If you are driving an affected vehicle, until the ignition recall repairs have been performed, it is very important that you remove all items from your key ring, leaving only the vehicle key."
Charles and Grace Silvas, owners of a 2006 Chevy Cobalt, sued GM in Nueces County Court before the car manufacturer removed the case to federal court.
The Silvas claim they have experienced the sudden power loss in their Cobalt and they no longer drive the vehicle.
Concerned with maintaining their Cobalt's value in the face of potential power-loss accidents involving other Cobalt drivers, and their safety on the road, the Silvas asked U.S. District Judge Nelva Ramos Gonzales to issue a "park it now" alert to affected drivers.
Such an alert would advise others their cars are too dangerous to drive.
Ramos declined to issue the alert Thursday, however, finding that U.S. Supreme Court precedent instructed her to defer to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration under the "doctrine of primary jurisdiction."
With the aim of promoting smooth relations between federal agencies and courts, the doctrine advises judges that it may be appropriate in a case's early stages to defer to agencies "that are better equipped by specialization" to sort out the underlying legal issues, the ruling states.
In keeping with that precedent, Ramos decided Thursday not to step on the highway-safety administration's toes.
"The court is of the opinion that NHTSA is far better equipped than this court to address the broad and complex issues of automotive safety and the regulation of automotive companies in connection with a nationwide recall," the six-page ruling states.
"Furthermore, NHTSA has proceeded substantially into the recall process with respect to the defective ignition switches in GM vehicles," Ramos continued. "The Silvas have not demonstrated that they have made any effort to obtain a "park it now" alert through any proceeding involving NHTSA despite their right to do so."
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