Keyless ignitions are convenient. In fact, they are now a standard feature in more than half of all new cars delivered each year in the United States. Unfortunately, it appears that on some models, this seemingly-innocuous convenience can disguise a potential hazard that can lead to illness, personal injury or even death.
According to a report in the New York Times, more than two dozen people have died from carbon monoxide poisoning when they inadvertently left their keyless vehicles running in a garage, believing the engine was off when they took the fob out of the car and entered the house. Several others have suffered ill effects, including brain damage, from carbon monoxide exposure but were able to get out of their homes before they succumbed.
In most cases, the victims were older drivers who had become accustomed to simply removing keys from an ignition to turn off a car. Combined with the relative-silence of modern car engines, by removing the fob from the car, they believed they had shut off the engine prior to entering their homes. Automakers are required to equip keyless vehicles with warning systems that will alert a driver if the engine is running when they exit such a vehicle. It is the adequacy of these warnings that has come under fire.
In many models, the engine will run on until it is out of fuel or turned off and the audible warnings delivered by the vehicle are not all that distinguishable from warnings for other circumstances like an open door or an unbuckled safety belt. A few automakers have taken it upon themselves to improve on existing safety features. Ford, for example, has installed a device that will turn off an engine that has idled for 30 minutes if the fob is no longer inside the vehicle. Other automakers have not followed suit. Anyone who – or whose loved one – has suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a keyless vehicle left in a garage should consult with an experienced personal injury attorney.
Source: New York Times, “Deadly Convenience: Keyless Cars and Their Carbon Monoxide Toll,” David Jeans and Majlie De Puy Kamp, May 13, 2018