Honda To Audit Reporting Inaccuracies After Third Takata Airbag Death Linked To Company

Car manufacturers are required under law to report death and injury claims to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Those figures allow the regulatory agency to identify potentially fatal and dangerous defects. New reports show that might not have been the case for Honda Motor Corp., whose vehicles have  now been linked to three fatalities related to defective airbags.

Reuters reports that officials with Honda say they have launched a third-party audit of “potential inaccuracies” in providing information for Early Warning Reports.

Consumer safety group, Center for Auto Safety, says those inaccuracies, specifically concerning defective Takata-produced airbags, have hampered regulators ability to spot safety defects, which in turn can leave potentially dangerous vehicles on the roadways.

Honda officials say in a statement to Bloomberg Businessweek that the inaccuracies likely stem from the company’s choice to not include verbal reports of injury or death claims. The company says the omission is not against the law.

Honda only reported 28 injury-and-death claims to NHTSA last year, far below other manufacturer levels of claims. General Motors reported 1,716, while Toyota was responsible for 1,774.

Honda says it will revise its current claims reporting practice in the future.

But those changes may be coming too late for the car manufacturer. Reuters reports that a third fatality related to defective Takata-produced airbags was found to have occurred in a Honda vehicle.

Businessweek reports that all three U.S. fatalities related to the issue stemmed from accidents involving Honda and its Acura-branded vehicles.

NHTSA is investigating the airbags, which it says may deploy with too much force, causing metal fragments to kill or injure vehicle occupants. Since 2008, 16 million vehicles with the airbags have been recalled globally, nearly 6 million by Honda.

According to Reuters, the latest fatality occurred in 2013 when the driver of a 2002 Acura TL sedan crashed inside of a parking garage.

A police report shows the man died from head injuries sustained when his car accelerated, struck three vehicles and collided with the building. The coroner’s report reviewed by Businessweek found that a man died after being stuck by a piece of metal that blew out as the airbag deployed.

Officials with Honda say they were never informed of the accident and are “having to piece it together after the fact now.”

While it’s unclear if Honda will face additional regulatory scrutiny for its possibly ineffective injury and death reporting, the issue further highlights a systemic fracture in the U.S. vehicle safety recall system.

Just this year alone, Businessweek reports that U.S. automakers have recalled 51.8 million vehicles.

Millions of those vehicles were part of a General Motors recall concerning defective ignition switches. That issue, which GM officials say they knew about for 13 years before issuing the recall, has so far resulted in 27 fatalities, with new death claims being verified each week.

Officials with NHTSA tell Reuters they are working to establish a “new normal” for automakers issuing recalls. Additionally, the agency is working with Honda to determine whiter the automaker is in compliance with reporting standards.

Third traffic death in U.S. linked to Takata air bags [Reuters]
Honda Probes Parking-Lot Death Amid New Casualty Search [Bloomberg Businessweek]

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