Keyless Ignition Cars Put Drivers At-Risk for Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

As cars become more advanced, they present new dangers. One such danger is vehicles with keyless ignition or push to start technology. A New York Times report published over the weekend detailed that since 2006, at least 28 people have died and 45 others have suffered injuries from carbon-monoxide poisoning after believing they turned off their vehicles.

The article details carbon monoxide flooding the homes of keyless-ignition vehicles drivers who accidentally left vehicles running in a garage. While more than two dozen people have been killed by the colorless and odorless gas, several more have been left with severe injuries including severe brain damage.

Keyless ignition was first introduced in the early 2000s on luxury vehicles. Now, the technology is readily available on vehicles across all budgets. Currently, more than half of the 17 million cars sold annually in the United States come standard with keyless ignitions. Newer cars often come with quieter vehicles and can lull drivers into believing their vehicle has been properly turned off.
A January 2011 Standard issued by the Society of Automotive Engineers called for requiring automakers to include warning signals. The signals would alert drivers exiting their vehicles that cars are still on. An example of warning signals would include a series of beeps or shutting the engine off automatically. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also supports such a feature alleging that, along with carbon monoxide poisoning, an added danger is vehicles rolling away. The New York Times reports that the NHTSA has not acted on the idea, but that the rule is still under consideration.

In addition to industry experts suggestions, attorneys filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of injured clients in 2015. The suit alleged that 13 carbon monoxide-related deaths linked to keyless-ignition vehicles. The lawsuit claimed that automakers Nissan, Ford, Toyota, FCA US (Fiat Chrysler) and Hyundai failed to install safety features, such as an auto-off feature, for their keyless ignition switches. The suit alleged that without this sort of safeguard, the possibility for keyless ignition vehicles to run without keys potentially increased the risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. However, in September 2016 United States District Judge Andre Birotte Jr dismissed the suit. The suit’s plaintiffs ultimately failed to show how keyless ignitions caused owners any actual injury.

How to Prevent Keyless Ignition Carbon-Monoxide Poisoning 

Unlike the General Motors ignition switch recall, keyless ignition is not a faulty component issue. The tragic deaths from the keyless ignition vehicles were largely preventable. However, until auto manufacturers do more to protect drivers and their families, the NHTSA recommends basic safety tips to prevent injuries from keyless ignitions:

  • Make sure your car is in park before shutting off the engine.
  • Double check your engine is off.
  • Apply the vehicle’s parking brake.
  • Read the driver’s manual for detailed instructions on how to operate your vehicle.
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