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updated 8/9/2010 6:24:34 PM ET 2010-08-09T22:24:34

Honda Motor Co. is recalling the popular Accord and Civic passenger cars to address problems with an ignition switch that could allow the key to be removed without the transmission being shifted into park, its third recall over the problem since 2003.

Honda said the most recent recall involved 384,220 vehicles and includes 2003 model year Accord and Civics and 2003-2004 versions of the Honda Element. Honda told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that the defect with the automatic transmissions could lead to a vehicle rolling away and increase the risk of a crash.

The Japanese automaker said in a statement the recall would involve about 197,000 Accords, 117,000 Civics and 69,000 Elements. The company said it has received several complaints about the ignition interlock and "is aware of a small number of related incidents, including one that resulted in a minor injury."

Honda said the ignition interlock mechanism could be damaged or worn during use and "it may become possible to remove the ignition key when the shift lever is not in park." Unless the parking brake is set, the vehicle could roll away under those circumstances and lead to a crash.

The three related recalls have involved about 1.4 million vehicles since 2003. Honda recalled more than 560,000 minivans and sedans, including the 1998-99 Accord, to correct the ignition park-shift interlock defect in October 2003. In January 2005, Honda recalled nearly 490,000 passenger cars, including certain 1999-2002 Accords, because of the ignition switch problem.

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NHTSA said in a statement that the latest problem differed from previous recalls that Honda conducted over ignition interlocks but the "potential safety risk is the same." The 2003 recall involved a casting failure that could lead to excessive wear on the interlock lever and the 2005 recall involved an interlock lever that could slip out of position.

The latest recall followed an investigation opened by NHTSA in January 2009 after the government received 16 complaints about the failure of the ignition interlock in 2002 and 2003 Accords. Eleven of the complaints alleged that the failure of the interlocks led to rollaway crashes.

The recall of the Accord, Civic and Element is expected to begin in late September. Dealers plan to remove an interlock pin and lever within the ignition switch and replace them at no charge.

Owners can go to www.recalls.honda.com or contact Honda at (800) 999-1009 and select option 4 for more information.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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