Keyless ignition is yet another big convenience added to our vehicles over the last decade or two. No longer having to fumble with a key to start up the car? Sounds great. At Tapalian Law, RI personal injury lawyer David Tapalian is all for the latest and greatest safety technology and convenience features to make the driving experience safer and less distracting. Along with keyless ignition, the majority of newer vehicles have keyless entry, allowing us to gain entry into and start our car without every touching a key. But the truth is, this convenience can also be deadly. Lately, more attention is being brought to its potentially detrimental result- death or injury from carbon monoxide poisoning.
How is Keyless Ignition Causing Fatalities?
Keyless entry and keyless ignition are both automotive features that allow a vehicle to be entered, or the engine started, without having to manually handle a key. If the key fob is on the person, in their hand, a pocket, or purse within the designated distance range, the key fob can transmit a radio signal therefore allowing the car door to be opened or the engine started. On the other hand, it also allows the driver to exit the vehicle with the key fob while the car is still running. Many newer model cars, especially electric or hybrid vehicles, are extremely quiet leaving us to sometimes question if the engine is even running. Because the vehicle is so quiet, it can be easy to forget to turn off the engine and leave the vehicle running. Older drivers can be especially prone to doing so. But this is where the danger of carbon monoxide lies. If said vehicle is parked inside an enclosed garage attached to a home, the carbon monoxide can build up and seep into the home silently poisoning those inside, often in their sleep. Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that one cannot see, taste, or smell. When breathed in, it can displace oxygen in the blood depriving the heart, brain, and other vital organs of necessary oxygen. This can result in death. Those with carbon monoxide exposure that is not fatal may end up with other sicknesses and injuries such as headache, dizziness, vomiting, nausea, or unconsciousness, as well as brain damage. Some automotive manufacturers are facing wrongful death lawsuits or personal injury lawsuits as a result.
Keyless Ignition Deaths, Statistics
A recent New York Times report, Deadly Convenience: Keyless Cars and Their Carbon Monoxide Toll, found that approximately 28 deaths and 45 injuries can be linked to carbon monoxide exposure caused by keyless systems. The reason? Without having to turn a key, the victims left their vehicle and forgot to turn off their engines resulting in carbon monoxide poisoning. Many of the deaths resulted from the running vehicle being left in an enclosed garage attached to a home.
What Changes Are Being Made to Make Keyless Ignitions Safer?
Years back a proposal was made by the Society of Automotive Engineers, the world’s leading automotive standards group, to require safety features in vehicles with keyless ignition. Suggestions included a series of beeps to alert drivers the car was still running without the key fob nearby, or for the engine to shut off automatically after a period of time. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) supported similar implementations but nothing was ever finalized although proposals are still under review. Currently regulators are relying on individual car manufacturers to include these safety mechanisms voluntarily. While some vehicle manufacturers are going above and beyond these measures, others are falling short. For example, Toyota vehicles including Lexus, were involved in almost half of the carbon monoxides deaths and fatalities, per the report in the New York Times article. As of now, wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits against various auto manufacturers for these deaths and injuries continue to increase.
Contact a RI Personal Injury Lawyer if You Have Been Hurt
While the number of deaths and injuries from keyless cars left running is estimated, we don’t know for sure the exact figures as no federal agency keeps complete records at this time. Regulators continue to propose better solutions to this harmful automotive issue. In the meantime, the number of injuries and deaths continue to rise as vehicles with keyless ignition become even more prevalent than they already are and seem to especially affect older drivers. If you, or a loved one, has experienced an injury or fatality due to a possible car manufacturer defect, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer. Attorney David Tapalian has helped numerous Rhode Island and Massachusetts residents recover compensation for auto accident related injuries. Contact Tapalian Law today for a free consultation of your personal injury case at