When a product is designed well and performs as it should, it should not normally cause harm or injury to people who as using it as it is intended to be used. However, sometimes a product performs a little too well and, without some sort of a failsafe mechanism, has the potential to injure its user. This appears to be the case with the keyless ignitions that are now standard in more than half of the 17 million new cars delivered in the United States each year. It is not that the cars themselves are defective, but they suffer from defective vehicle designs that fail to account for the potential dangers posed by the keyless ignitions.
A recent national media report examined cases in which owners inadvertently left the engines of keyless vehicles running. As a consequence of carbon monoxide build-up in attached garages that spilled over into their homes, more than two dozen owners of cars with keyless ignitions have died and several others have become gravely ill or suffered brain damage from lack of oxygen. The victims in these incidents believed that the engines were off when they took the fob out of the car with them.
Compounding the issue is how quietly modern car engines operate. In many cases the victims were older and had become accustomed over decades of driving to removing the key from an ignition and expecting the car’s engine to be off. When removing the fob from the vehicle but not hearing the engine running, they believed the car was off. This seems to have occurred in spite of the required warning systems installed in all such vehicles.
It seems that in many models the warning systems were simply inadequate. Mazda, on the other hand, has changed the way its keyless vehicles alert drivers that the engine is still own. The cars now sound a series of six, sharp double-beeps that are audible from both inside and outside the vehicle when the doors are closed, then engine is running and the fob is no longer in the car. Ford, for its part, now installs failsafe devices that turn off the engine if it has idled for 30 minutes and the fob is no longer in the vehicle. Anyone who has suffered ill effects from carbon monoxide poisoning due to a keyless ignition should consider seeking the advice of an experienced products liability attorney.
Source: New York Times, “Deadly Convenience: Keyless Cars and Their Carbon Monoxide Toll,” David Jeans and Majlie De Puy Kamp, May 13, 2018