The NHTSA has announced an investigation into a 2005 fatal accident involving a 2005 model year Honda Accord Hybrid. The driver of the car involved claims to have lost braking ability after driving over rumble strips alongside a highway. Worse, the car then began to accelerate uncontrollably, at which point the driver lost control and drove into oncoming traffic. The resulting accident injured the driver of the Honda and occupants of two other vehicles. It also claimed the life of the front seat passenger in the Honda Accord Hybrid.
The petition letter sent to the NHTSA by the driver of the Honda Accord Hybrid cites 22 other complaints of braking issues with Honda Accord Hybrid and Honda Civic Hybrid models, specifically related to braking on rough or uneven pavement. The petitioner believed these incidents to be similar enough to her own experience to warrant further investigation. The NHTSA will decide what, if any, action to take following its investigation.
It looks like it’s Honda’s turn under the microscope, and I’d bet large sums of money that the cause of the 2005 accident is ultimately found to be driver error, specifically pedal confusion. Anyone familiar with ABS systems knows that they don’t function well on rough pavement, broken pavement or loose surfaces. In fact, I’ve never driven an ABS-equipped car or motorcycle on rough pavement that didn’t exhibit a perceived loss of braking ability. Regenerative brakes, a staple of hybrid cars and fitted to the 2005 Accord Hybrid, also provide an unusual pedal feel compared to conventional braking systems. I suspect the other 22 incidents, none of which claimed unintended acceleration in addition to reduced braking ability, will also be found to be without merit.