The New York Times has published an in-depth article exploring the dangers of keyless cars and how they pose the risk of deadly carbon monoxide poisoning. The Times gives the example of Florida resident Fred Schaub who parked his Toyota RAV4 in his attached garage and went into the house with the wireless key fob believing he had turned off the ignition. Roughly 29 hours later, he was found dead due to carbon monoxide poisoning. The gas had flooded his home while he slept. Schaub is among more than two dozen people killed by carbon monoxide nationwide since 2006 as a result of a keyless-ignition vehicle being left running in a garage, often inadvertently. Dozens of others have been reportedly injured under similar circumstances, some left with irreversible brain damage.
A Potentially Lethal Convenience
Keyless ignitions are now the standard feature in more than half of the 17 million new vehicles sold each year in the United States. Rather than a physical key that turns on the ignition, drivers use a fob that transmits a radio signal. As long as the fob is present, a car can be started with the touch of a button. However, drivers who are no longer in the habit of turning and removing a key to turn off the engine, could mistakenly think they’ve turned off their car when it is in fact very much on and spewing lethal carbon monoxide gas.
It’s been several years since the Society of Automotive Engineers called for features such as a series of beeps to alert drivers that the cars were still running. There is also technology available to shut the engine off automatically. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed a federal regulation based on that recommendation. Installing these safety technologies would only cost automakers a few pennies per vehicle. However, the auto industry fought the proposed legislation and the plan languished for years while the number of deaths and injuries climbed.
The Urgent Need for Safety Features
For now regulators are relying on automakers to voluntarily incorporate warning features. But the New York Times conducted a survey of 17 car companies and found that they fell short when it comes to taking these voluntary steps. Toyota models, including Lexus, have been involved in almost half of the carbon monoxide fatalities and injuries The Times has identified. And yet, Toyota officials maintain their keyless ignition system “meets or exceeds all relevant federal safety standards.”
It’s also important to remember that even though some automakers like Ford have started to incorporate these safety features, older vehicles remain out there and have not been retrofitted to reduce this hazard. It appears that automakers are just content to settle personal injury and wrongful death cases that stem from this danger. There seems to be no motivation to incorporate the safety technologies that could prevent injuries and deaths. And these systems cost only a few pennies per vehicle! As automakers continue to put profits over consumer safety, our auto defect attorneys will continue to fight for change and for justice for those who have become victims of corporate greed.