Are Keyless Vehicles Dangerous?
Are Keyless Vehicles Dangerous?

Keyless ignitions come standard in roughly half of the 17 million vehicles sold in the U.S. every year. Unfortunately, while these keyless systems are convenient, they can also be dangerous. Since 2006, more than two dozen people have been killed by carbon monoxide poisoning from inadvertently leaving their vehicles running in a garage. The New York Times has also identified 45 injuries related to the issue since 2006, but real figures could be higher, as there is no official record kept of these injuries.

How Do Keyless Ignitions Work?

Keyless ignitions forego the traditional key for a fob that transmits a radio signal. With the fob in the vehicle, the driver can start the car by holding down the brake pedal and pressing a start button. The problem lies with turning the vehicle off. Because of the keyless ignition design, the driver can put the car in park and take the key fob with them, without shutting off the car’s ignition. This is a fairly easy mistake to make, as engines in new vehicles are quiet, and there is no need to remove the key from the ignition like there is in a vehicle with a traditional key. Leaving the vehicle running can be a deadly mistake, as it emits carbon monoxide. In a closed garage, the carbon monoxide can leak into the house, slowly poisoning anyone inside.

Safety Measures to Prevent Keyless Ignition Deaths

In 2006, the NHTSA created a regulation stating that “a warning must be sufficient to catch a driver’s attention before he or she exits the vehicle without the keys.” But what constitutes adequate warning? This ambiguity means it is largely up to automakers to make safety a priority in keyless vehicles. Unfortunately, many are still coming up short. For instance, about half of the carbon monoxide deaths and injuries reported in a New York Times report involved Toyota models, including Lexus. While Toyota claims its keyless systems meet federal safety standards, the company has failed to incorporate the warning signals recommended by its engineers. Toyota’s system has a series of audible alerts outside and inside the vehicles to alert drivers if the motor is still running without the key fob. However, Toyota engineers recommended more effective warning signals, including flashing lights and a more unique sound—a recommendation the automaker rejected.

Seven years ago, the Society of Automotive Engineers called for automakers to incorporate safety features that would warn drivers if their vehicles were left running without the key fob in or near the vehicle. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also proposed a regulation with similar requests, but opposition from the auto industry prevented it from moving forward. The New York Times reports that it would cost the industry less than $500,000 a year in software coding to comply with the NHTSA’s proposed regulations. General Motors confirmed the miniscule cost of implementing better safety features in a report to the NHTSA. It cost the automaker just $5 per vehicle to install an automatic shutoff feature in a 2015 recall.

Some automakers have taken their safety features up a notch. Ford, for example, now has a feature that automatically shuts off the engine after 30 minutes of idling if the key fob is not in the vehicle. But without strict federal standards, there is little consistency in most automakers’ keyless warning systems. There is even disparity between different models by the same maker.

Avoid Harm from Your Keyless Ignition System

If you drive a vehicle with a keyless ignition, make sure you learn what safety features the car has. Does it alert you with audible or visual signals if the car is left running without the key fob present? Is there an auto-shutoff feature?

When you park your car, always double check that the vehicle is in “park” and the engine is shut off before you exit the vehicle. It might also be a good idea to keep a reminder note inside your vehicle to shut off the ignition.

If you feel that your vehicle’s keyless ignition system fails to adequately warn you of the engine being left on, contact the automaker with a complaint and demand a recall to address the safety problem. And if you have been injured by a vehicle with a keyless ignition, contact a personal injury attorney for assistance with your claim.

“It is a shame that some of these automakers would fail to sacrifice a few dollars per vehicle for the safety of their customers,” said Attorney Walter Clark, founder of Walter Clark Legal Group.

Our firm has been handling personal injury cases throughout the California Low Desert and High Desert communities for over 30 years. With a 95% success rate, the personal injury attorneys at Walter Clark Legal Group will fight to hold those responsible for your loss accountable and win compensation to cover medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If you have been injured by a defective product and want to discuss your legal options, contact us today for a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer. We have offices in Indio, Rancho Mirage, Victorville, El Centro, and Yucca Valley, and represent clients through the entire California Low Desert and High Desert communities.

DISCLAIMER: The Walter Clark Legal Group blog is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal or medical advice. References to laws are based on general legal practices and vary by location. Information reported comes from secondary news sources. We do handle these types of cases, but whether or not the individuals and/or loved ones involved in these accidents choose to be represented by a law firm is a personal choice we respect. Should you find any of the information incorrect, we welcome you to contact us with corrections.

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