Keyless ignition fatalities lead to action

The push-button ignition starter is a recent and popular innovation that allows motorists to keep their key-fobs in their pockets. However, this innovation has proven fatal in dozens of cases where people died from carbon monoxide inhalation after they forgot to push the starter button off. While this may be grounds for a wrongful death action, a bill was also introduced in the U.S. Senate addressing this danger.

Keyless ignitions are now standard equipment in more than half of the 17 million new vehicles sold each year in this country. Many times, drivers park their cars in a garage attached to their home and do not remember to turn off the starter. The carbon monoxide then seeps into their home through an air duct and suffocates the people inside.

There were at least 28 deaths and 45 injuries involving carbon monoxide asphyxiation from vehicles with keyless ignitions that were unintentionally left idling, according to a May 2018 New York Times report. The drivers in those accidents ranged from 20 to 80-years-old. There have been another five fatalities since that report.

Senator Richard Blumenthal criticized the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for its failure to address this problem over an eight-year period. Earlier this month, he proposed the Protecting Americans from the Risks of Keyless Ignition Technology Act to deal with this issue.

If passed, the bill would require the NHTSA to issue safety standards requiring manufacturers to deal with the risk of carbon monoxide from keyless ignitions. The NHTSA drafted a rule on keyless ignition eight years ago that was not finalized. Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the Center for Auto Safety, Safety Research and Strategies and Consumer Reports have endorsed the bill. Since then, GM and Ford have developed auto shut-offs for their keyless ignition vehicles that turn off the engine after a short time of engine idling. Other manufacturers have not developed this safety technology. Two major trade associations for manufacturers have not pushed the NHTSA to approve a uniform rule.

Families of victims of a fatal car crash or injuries from defective equipment may be entitled to compensation. An attorney can help them pursue a lawsuit.

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