If you are searching for a vehicle in 2019, one thing will be clear – it is hard to find a vehicle without a keyless push button ignition. While many people are excited about this option and the fact that they do not have to physically turn a key to get their engine started, there are dangers associated with the same, dangers which can often times be deadly. Why is this option so deadly you may ask? First, one has to understand how the keyless system works. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “Keyless Ignition Systems, as they are commonly called, usually consist of a device (also known as a key fob or a FOB) carried by the driver, which takes over the functions of a traditional metal key. Verification of the correct device is done electronically when the driver attempts to start the vehicle—usually by pushing a button or turning a rotary switch.” In other words, the key fob will transmit a code to the vehicle when the fob is within a certain close range. When the coded signal matches the code embedded in the vehicle's system, a number of systems within the car are activated, including the startup system. This in turn allows someone to start the vehicle, solely by pressing a button in the vehicle, if the key fob is in the car. While this option is a means of convenience for many – it does have its downfalls. Specifically, the top two dangers associated with this option are among the following:
1. Drivers who shut off the engine without putting their vehicle in “park” and who then walk away from the vehicle, leaving it prone to roll away; and
2. Drivers who do put their vehicles in park, but inadvertently leave the engine active, increasing the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning in a closed environment.
While manufacturers have developed certain warnings or sounds that will alert vehicle owners that they’ve left the car running, not all “push to start” vehicles have this and/or have effective warnings that will ensure a vehicle owner understands what they are being warned of.
A prime example of this danger is set forth in a New York Times Article, in which the Article describes the unfortunate deaths of two individuals who were found dead at their home in Florida, poisoned by carbon monoxide after they had pulled their vehicle, which had a keyless ignition, into their garage attached to their house, and accidentally left the vehicle running. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/28/business/keyless-carbon-monoxide.html.This is sadly, not the only case wherein individuals have died from leaving their keyless ignitions running. We can only imagine that without some type of change by manufacturers, additional aggrieved families will be bringing suit against automakers who have failed to take appropriate steps to prevent these tragedies.