When one thinks of a wrongful death caused by a car, it would not be unusually to picture a tragic crash. But, not all car accidents that cause death even damage the vehicle. In fact, some accidental deaths due to cars have more to do with just how well they function, and a particular convenience feature that is now standard on more than half of all new vehicles sold: keyless ignitions.
A recent New York Times report surveyed cases in which car owners had inadvertently left their keyless vehicles running in attached garages and as a consequence, suffered carbon monoxide poisoning. Since the risk was first identified in 2006, more than two dozen people have died and many more have become seriously ill -- some suffering brain injury due to oxygen deprivation -- from inhaling the deadly gas. The victims largely believed that the car's engine had been turned off either because modern motors are so quiet or because they had removed the fob from inside the vehicle.
However, most car models with keyless ignitions will continue running indefinitely or until all of the fuel is consumed -- even when the fob is outside the vehicle -- unless it is switched off. Although, all cars with keyless ignitions are required to warn drivers with audible and visible alerts, they are proving to be insufficient to prevent the carbon monoxide poisonings that continue to occur across the country.
Some automakers have taken safety precautions into their own hands. Ford, for example, has begun installing kill switched in its keyless vehicles that cuts the engine after 30 minutes if the fob is no longer inside the car. Mazda's keyless models emit six loud, double-beeps both inside and outside the car when the driver leaves the car and closes the doors while the engine is running. Other automakers, on the other hand, have failed to heed safety advice from their own engineers -- even though the cost of the fix is relatively inexpensive. If someone -- or one of their loved ones -- has been the victim of carbon monoxide poisoning by a keyless vehicle, they should seek the advice of an experienced product liability lawyer.
Source: The New York Times, "Deadly Convenience: Keyless Cars and Their Carbon Monoxide Toll," David Jeans & Majlie De Puy Kamp, May 13, 2018