U.S. safety regulators upgrade probe of Accords for air bag issue

DETROIT Mon Aug 4, 2014 8:51am EDT

DETROIT Aug 4 (Reuters) - U.S. safety regulators have upgraded an investigation of an estimated 335,195 Honda Accord sedans a step closer to a recall after receiving almost 300 complaints that air bags can deploy when the car door is shut with too much force.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in documents filed online on Friday that it was upgrading the investigation to an "engineering analysis" from a "preliminary evaluation" of the 2008 four-door models made by Honda Motor Co .

An engineering analysis is a step that can lead to a recall if regulators determine that the manufacturer needs to address a safety problem.

The NHTSA said it had identified 293 incidents of alleged inadvertent deployment of driver or passenger side air bags. Fourteen people were injured because of the problem, according to the agency's documents.

In some cases, the side seat-mounted torso air bag can deploy as well, NHTSA said.

NHTSA said it was investigating the risk of air bag deployment injuries to occupants in vulnerable positions. Regulators opened the initial preliminary evaluation in late January.

Honda officials were not immediately available for comment.

In June 2008, near the end of model 2008 Accord production, Honda changed the crash parameter for door-closing force in the electronic control unit's software code to reduce the incidents of inadvertent side air bag deployments, NHTSA said. Regulators found the number of inadvertent air bag deployments had fallen significantly after that.

Honda said the two-door Accord car used a different software crash parameter than the four-door model, according to NHTSA.

In one incident last fall, an owner said he had stopped at a gas station so his fiancee could purchase a drink. When she closed the door, the passenger-side curtain air bag deployed, striking their 9-year-old son, according to a complaint filed with NHTSA.

The boy suffered a concussion and had blood behind the ear, according to the complaint. (Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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