In Florida, and across the rest of the nation, dozens of people have become ill – and many have succumbed – due to the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning that was caused by cars with keyless ignitions. While this may not be the type of personal injury one would expect to be inflicted by an automobile risk, it is made deadlier exactly because it is not expected. The problem is caused by today’s quieter modern engines, combined with vehicles that continue motoring even after the driver exits the passenger cabin and removes the fob.
A recent New York Times report that examined the issue found that many of the victims were older drivers who were accustomed to switching off engines by turning a key and removing them from the ignition. In these cases, the drivers likely did not hear the engine running and, by force of habit, believed that the engine was off when they removed the fob and entered their homes from an attached garage. The vehicle would then continue running until it was switched off or consumed all its fuel – and the home was filled with deadly carbon monoxide.
The concern over keyless ignitions has become so urgent in Florida that one fire department in Palm Beach County has been handing out carbon monoxide detectors, along with warning stickers that drivers can post in their garages. The stickers carry a reminder about turning off vehicles with keyless ignitions. Auto manufacturers have been on notice about the potential peril of keyless ignitions since 2006, when a Florida woman was overcome in her home by carbon monoxide from her keyless vehicle.
Manufacturers are required to equip vehicles with audible warnings. Some automakers, like Ford, have added additional safety measures to alleviate the risks posed by keyless ignitions. Since 2013, Ford models with keyless ignitions are designed to stop running if the engines have idled for 30 minutes and the fob is no longer in the passenger compartment. Other automakers have failed to take any safety measures beyond the minimum requirements.