U.S. Investigates Honda Pilots, Odysseys That Roll Away

DETROIT (AP) — U.S. safety regulators are investigating complaints that Honda  (NYSE: HMC  ) Odyssey minivans and Pilot SUVs can roll away after drivers remove the ignition key.

The probe by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration affects more than 577,000 older-model vehicles, which were big sellers with families because of their space and reputation for quality.

Here are details of the government investigation:

Models affected: The 2003 and 2004 model years with automatic transmissions.

The problem: Failure of the mechanism that locks the key in the ignition. When that happens, drivers of the vans and SUVs are able to remove keys without shifting into park. Some have left the vehicles, and the vans or SUVs have rolled off unexpectedly. Owners have filed 43 complaints with NHTSA, including 16 that resulted in crashes.

Injuries: Two people reported injuries, according to NHTSA's database. In the most serious case, the driver reported a broken leg after being run over by a 2003 Odyssey. The driver parked the van in a sloped driveway, and after leaving the Honda, it started to roll backward. The driver tripped while trying to stop the van. "I had an open fracture of my fibula (lower leg bone) and crush injuries on my shin area," the driver reported. NHTSA does not identify drivers who file complaints.

The fix: None yet. The safety agency will try to find out if the problem happens often enough to warrant a recall. Honda says it's cooperating with NHTSA. It says drivers should always make sure their vehicles are in park and use the parking brake when stopped.

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