Although keyless ignitions are incredibly convenient and increasingly commonplace – more than half of all new vehicles are delivered with them as standard equipment – this equipment has come under increased scrutiny of late. The reason residents of Burlington County – and other car owners across the country – are concerned is the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning resulting from keyless vehicles that have not turned off. This peril has been at the center of several personal injury and products liability lawsuits.
The New York Times reported that car manufacturers have been on notice of the risks posed by keyless ignitions since 2006, when a woman died from carbon monoxide that filled her Florida home after her keyless vehicle failed to shut down. Dozens of cases of serious illness, brain damage from oxygen deprivation and death have been attributed to these types of vehicles. Regulations require cars sold in the U.S. to emit an audible warning to alert drivers that the engine is on, however the minimal warnings have proven insufficient.
The problem is a combination of convenience and efficiency – often involving older, more experienced drivers who are in the habit of turning off an engine by removing a key from the car rather than pressing a button. Victims of keyless-ignition-related carbon monoxide poisoning often believed the car engine, which runs very quietly and efficiently these days, was off when they removed the fob from the car and entered the house from their attached garage.
The engine, however, would continue running, filling the house and garage with the deadly gas. Some automakers, such as Ford and Mazda, have taken additional steps to ensure that their keyless vehicles are safe. Ford, for instance, has installed a kill switch in its newer cars that activates when the car engine has idled for 30 minutes, all the doors are closed and the fob has been removed from the vehicle. Other automakers, unfortunately, have done little to address the dangers posed by keyless ignitions.