keyless ignition danger

In cars with keyless ignition, the engine cut off with a button on the dashboard. Some drivers forget to cut off the engine, which can lead to a dangerous accumulation of carbon monoxide.

In an article for, Michael Hyland asks why the National Highway Traffic Safety, Administration is not acting faster to address a safety problem caused by keyless ignitions. People have been injured and killed because the cars’ engines were not turned off when people parked them in garages, and poisonous carbon monoxide seeped into their homes.

In keyless ignition systems, drivers push a button on a fob instead of inserting a key into the ignition.

The NHTSA issued a proposed rule in 2011 to require alarm systems in vehicles with keyless ignitions, calling it a “clear safety problem.” However the rule is still just a proposal. A spokeswoman told Hyland that the agency is considering public comments as it determines what path to take on the issue.

Close Calls, Deaths With Keyless Ignition

Hyland wrote about a North Carolina man who left a 2009 Nissan Murano running all night in a garage, not realizing the ignition had not been shut off. In that case, luckily, three people in the house and four police offices survived, after being taken to the hospital.

Hyland interviewed Mooresville, North Carolina, Police Department Capt. Joseph Cooke, who said:

This was just an unfortunate situation where [the man who did not turn off the ignition] wasn’t familiar with his daughter’s car. If carbon monoxide detectors had been in the house, that would have been something that hopefully would have alerted the family that something’s going on.’

But other people have not been so lucky. In an article for the Palm Beach Post, Charles Elmore reports that Palm Beach County, Florida, has the highest number of deaths linked to keyless ignition systems in the United States, with five of the 14 fatalities in the country since 2009. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., has called on the NHTSA to use its power to prevent such tragedies from occurring. “The new keyless ignition rules NHTSA is considering have been sitting idle for far too long,” Nelson said.

Intelligent Keys Introduced

Nissan spokesman Steve Yaeger told Elmore in February that new Intelligent Key-equipped Nissan and Infinitis give drivers an audible alert if they leave their car’s engine running and leave the car while the I-Key is on them. Other suggested safeguards include such ideas as systems that would automatically shut down the engine when the keyless fob leaves the car, Elmore writes. In 2012, Nissan North America said an audible alert inside the vehicle could cost $5, and one outside the vehicle could cost $30.

Safety ‘Top Priority’

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, an industry group, while saying “Auto safety is our top priority,” has said that it does not believe that NHTSA has given an adequate justification for requiring automakers to include such audible alerts. The Alliance represents BMW, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Mercedes Benz, and others.

Clarence Ditlow, executive director of Center for Auto Safety, a consumer advocacy group, said keyless ignition systems are a problem because “people are hard-wired to think when you take the key out of the ignition, the car is off.” Ditlow criticized carmakers for putting profits over safety.

Stephen Phillips, traffic safety manager for AAA Carolinas, told Hyland what whatever alarm or alert standard is developed, it needs to be the same for all vehicles. Ford has begun installing an automatic shut-off feature on its newer models.

Image by Prapass Wannapinij/123RF.

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