August 1, 2014 at 5:24 pm

U.S. upgrades probe into 335,000 Honda Accords for inadvertent air bag deployments

Washington — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is upgrading its investigation into 335,000 Honda Accords after nearly 300 reports that the air bags can inflate when the car doors are slammed.

The investigation into the 2008 Accord was opened earlier this year and upgraded to an engineering analysis, NHTSA said on its website Friday. NHTSA said it has found 293 incidents of alleged inadvertent deployment of the side air bags in 2008 Honda Accord four-doors, injuring 14.

In June 2008, near the end of the 2008 model year’s production, Honda changed the software to reduce inadvertent deployment of air bags caused by door-closing. NHTSA found that the incidence of accidental deployments went down significantly after the software was modified.

NHTSA is investigating the risk of injuries if the air bags do inflate.

One complaint said in April 2009 in Bangor, Maine, a driver pulled into a laundromat. As his cousin retrieved the laundry, the driver shut the front passenger door and all of the side air bags went off, “striking my cousin in the head.” The insurance company declined to cover the damage, saying it was a “mechanical defect.”

Some owners said the air bag deployments cost them as much as $7,000 to repair. In November, a New York-area man said the air bags deployed when the car was parked. When he took the Accord to a Honda dealer in West New York, New Jersey, the dealer said the incident happened because he had hit a pothole two weeks earlier. “I called my insurance company and was advised that this was impossible,” he said.

A 24-year-old owner near Louisville, Kentucky, said last year the air bags inflated as the owner was getting groceries out of the car “and pushed the door shut with my behind. Next thing I hear is a huge boom and I look back and my air bags” deployed. The dealership and Honda wouldn’t cover the $5,000 in repairs, so the owner told NHTSA of driving around without side air bags and still paying $400 a month in car payments for three more years.

One owner said the air bags inflated after he stopped at a gas station. After his fiancee closed the door, his 9-year-old son started screaming after the air bag hit him in the head. The boy suffered a concussion and had blood behind his ear, according to a complaint filed with NHTSA. The boy was in the emergency room, had a CT scan and missed school for two days.

dshepardson@detroitnews.com