Honda Accord Airbag Failures Results in New NHTSA Safety Probe

Federal investigators have launched a probe into problems with Honda Accord airbag control modules, following a number of reports that suggest the airbags may fail to deploy during front impact accidents. 

On August 18, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened an investigation (PDF) into airbag control module failures in 2008 Honda Accord vehicles. The investigation came following 19 complaints of airbag failures involving a component known as the SRS module, which could result in a recall of up to 384,000 vehicles.

One of the reports involved a front impact auto accident, where the airbag did not deploy and the lone occupant was injured. The NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) subsequently inspected the vehicle.

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According to ODI, when the SRS module fails, the air bag readiness indicator lights up on the instrument panel. The ODI received reports from consumers that the SRS module had to be replaced for the airbags to work again. However, some of the reports also indicate that diagnostic trouble codes that would aid in the investigation could not be retrieved from the SRS control modules, due to some problem with the module’s ability to communicate with other devices.

“An inability of the SRS unit to communicate raises concern about the readiness of the entire supplemental restraint system,” the ODI warns. “As a result, for vehicles with a failed SRS module, some or all of the air bags may be unavailable in a crash warranting deployment.”

Takata Airbag Problems

The investigation comes at a time when Honda is already the manufacturer that has been most impacted by the recall of airbags made by a Japanese parts supplier, which has affected at least 10 auto manufacturers. The Honda Accord, the same vehicle under investigation now, was also at the center of early concerns about Takata airbags, but at this time these two problems do not appear to be related.

Tens of millions of vehicles equipped with airbags made by Takata Corp. have been recalled because of problems with the Takata airbag inflators, which can cause airbags to overinflate and explode, spraying vehicle occupants with potentially deadly metal shrapnel.

At least eight deaths and more than 100 injuries have been linked to the Takata airbag recalls. Most of those have occurred in Honda vehicles.

Repairs and replacement parts have moved slowly, with only a few million vehicles fixed so far. In addition, many vehicle owners remain unaware that their car has a potentially dangerous airbag installed.

A growing number of Takata airbag lawsuits are being filed nationwide on behalf of individuals who suffered severe injuries from an exploding airbag. All involve similar allegations that design defects caused the airbags to overinflate and rupture.

On February 5, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation ordered all airbag lawsuits against Takata filed in federal courts nationwide to be consolidated under one judge in federal court in southern Florida for pretrial proceedings as part of a Takata airbag MDL.

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