"General Motors (GM) is recalling a total of 6,729,742 model-year 2000-2005 Chevrolet Impala and Monte Carlo, 1997-2005 Chevrolet Malibu, 1999-2004 Oldsmobile Alero, 1998-2002 Oldsmobile Intrigue, 1999-2005 Pontiac Grand Am, and 2004-2008 Pontiac Grand Prix vehicles. In these models, the weight on the key ring and/or road conditions or some other jarring event may cause the ignition switch to move out of the run position, turning off the engine. This defect can affect the safe operation of the air bag system. If the key is not in the run position, the air bags may not deploy if the vehicle is involved in a crash, increasing the risk of injury. Until this recall is performed, customers should remove all items from their key rings, leaving only the ignition key. The key fob (if applicable), should also be removed from the key ring."
Looks like the ignition switch and the subsequent lock cylinder is to blame here. Heavy keys have been known for years, even back into the 80's to cause potential problems over time, but the media and the recall's description seem to point that the ignition switch should be replaced with maybe a beefier unit or different design. Sweet! lets read through what GM (the dealer) will actually do. (paraphrased)
"-your GM dealer will install two key rings and an insert in the key slot or a cover over the key head on all ignition keys. This service will be performed for you at no charge" (it was bold in the recall letter)
Wow, a new ignition sw... Wait, wha...??? Ok the fix is simply to modify the keys themselves to prevent the operator from being able to put 50 lbs (ok that is an exaggeration) of crap hanging off the keys, which in turn could make the keys flop enough when hitting a bump to turn the ignition switch enough to turn the car to "off" while driving. This is even mentioned in the owners manual that no one reads. So really the remedy is purely around making the operator of a simple ignition key fool proof. (facepalm) You can't fix stupid. At least with this recall (#14350) some mis-information is going around and at least in this situation people are getting their panties in a twist because the media is confusing different recalls and lumping them all into one thing, "the ignition switch" and it doesn't just happen to GM, remember the Toyota sudden acceleration, fixed by removing the floor mats.
Bob's question: "Do I myself bear any legal liability for not addressing this if there's an accident? I drive a 2004 grand am. Have had it for 10 years, 100,000 miles and no problems. Just got reminder about recall. I don't hang anything on my car key except the remote for the car itself. It's a pain in the neck to go to a specifically GM dealer. Especially now that I know what it actually is. One dealer I called said they only fix THAT recall monday-friday 10am-3pm! Bizarre.
"I cannot comment on the legality in the event of an accident. I am not a lawyer, just a casual DIY mechanic. I suggest conversing with someone from an auto injury law firm to answer that question if it really bothers you or you need piece of mind."
Personally I think the "problem" specifically related to this particular recall (not other similar ones on other makes and models) is that the risk is very low that something will happen. I say this knowing good and well that just existing in this world is a risk to your health. This has been true since the beginning of time. The problem now is we have evolved so far that now we want to litigate the risks of existing.
If the risk is too great in anyone's mind, there is an easy and free fix for that. Don't drive a car, ever. If you never drive a car you can never have an ignition problem that potentially kills you or someone else.