Keyless Ignitions may Lead to Fatal Carbon Monoxide Poisoning


One very common modern convenience in new automobiles may lead to serious injuries and deaths. Keyless ignitions have allegedly led to the carbon monoxide poisoning deaths of more than two dozen people nationwide since 2006. Reports say many other American consumers have been injured, and some left with brain damage.

Keyless ignitions now come standard in over half of new vehicles sold in the United States each year. Rather than carrying a physical key, drivers have a fob that transmits a radio signal, and cars start with the touch of a button. But when accustomed to the habit of turning and removing a key to shut off the motor, many drivers exit their vehicles mistakenly thinking that the car has been turned off.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has proposed safety regulations that may be instituted for very little cost. But the auto industry has pushed back, and while a rule is still under consideration, injuries and deaths related to carbon monoxide poisoning are still reported. Regulators are currently relying on carmakers to install warning features voluntarily, though most have failed to do so.

Some automakers have software that alerts drivers if an engine is left running, like Ford’s keyless vehicles that automatically shut off after 30 minutes of idling if the key is not in the vehicle. Many older vehicles have not been fixed to reduce CO poisoning hazards, despite the small expense of making adjustments. The number of carbon monoxide poisoning deaths grows, the hazard is widespread and litigation against auto companies is mounting.

Joe Lyon is an experienced Cincinnati, Ohio product liability and personal injury attorney, well-versed in the science and economic impact such an injury or death has on the victim’s life and family.  Following carbon monoxide poisoning injuries and deaths, victims should contact an experienced lawyer to investigate.


Key Design Defect & Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

The keyless ignition was introduced the American market in 2002 and the exact number of carbon monoxide deaths related to keyless-ignition vehicles is unknown. In 2016, the NHTSA safety agency investigated at least four fatal incidents. From independent reports, lawsuits, and police records, The New York Times identified 28 deaths and 45 injuries since 2006.

Several reports each year describe a dangerous situation where a car is left running in the garage, and a home fills with carbon monoxide, linking keyless vehicles to CO poisoning accidents. Such incidents concerned the Society of Automotive Engineers enough to develop recommended practices to address keyless ignition CO hazards. The group’s recommendations to carmakers included installing audible or visual alerts or engine automatic shut-off.

The traffic safety administration has also proposed a key rule that would require car manufacturers to provide internal and external alerts that could reduce incidents of carbon monoxide poisoning. Such safety features would cost the auto industry less than half a million dollars a year in software coding for millions of keyless vehicles, a very small price to pay for lives lost to Carbon Monoxide Poisoning. The safety agency has not adopted the keyless ignition however, and at least 21 people have died of related accidents. No federal agency actually keeps records of carbon monoxide injury and death stats involving keyless vehicles, so numbers may be grossly underestimated.

Carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless and deprives the heart, brain and vital organs of oxygen. Victims who survive may have irreversible brain damage.


Older Drivers at Higher Risk of Keyless Ignition-Related Injury

In Florida, with communities of many older residents, the authorities have noticed that incidents involving keyless ignitions are quite common. A district chief for the Fire Rescue Department in one county even began handing out carbon monoxide detectors and signs for residents to display in their garages to shut off their cars.

But with no auto standard in place for safety features that would address the problems of keyless vehicles left running, accidents are bound to continue into the future. Many auto makers have only begun experimenting with safety features after accidents and subsequent lawsuits are filed. Toyota Motor, for example, began an investigation into its keyless technology after a man drove 250 miles only to realize that his remote key was still at home.

If a loved one has suffered carbon monoxide poisoning due to a keyless ignition system, and have questions about the legal remedies available to improve quality of life and medical care in Ohio, contact The Lyon Firm (800) 513-2403. You will speak directly with Mr. Lyon, and he will help you answer these critical questions.