The federal agency charged with keeping US motorists safe announced Thursday it has fined Honda $70 million for failing to report death and injury data in a timely manner.

Honda failed to report 1,729 incidents involving death or injury over an 11-year period, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration officials. Federal law requires automakers to report deaths, injuries and certain warranty claims. Officials said Thursday that information could have been used to spot trends in automotive defects and potentially save lives.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said it is possible the Department of Justice could conduct a criminal investigation into the failures, but it was not immediately known whether the Justice Department would pursue such charges.

NHTSA officials still don't know much about the 1,729 incidents of death or injury that were missing from the Early Warning Reporting records, because in some cases, they still haven't been reported. Mark Rosekind, the agency's new administrator, said Honda is still in the process of sending investigators the missing information.

"Our first task will be to review that, and determine actual deaths and injuries," he said. "That data is in the process of coming to us and being processed right now."

The $70 million is the largest civil penalty levied against an automaker in history, officials said. It actually consists of two $35 million penalties, the maximum allowed by statute for a single TREAD Act violation. In this case, NHTSA broke the fine into separate violations, one for the missing deaths and injury information and one for the company's failure to report certain warranty-claim information.

Honda reached an agreement with the federal government in late December, in which it accepted additional regulatory oversight and third-party audits that will ensure reporting is properly completed in the future.

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