Keyless Ignition Systems Linked to Carbon Monoxide Deaths
I’m Ed Smith, a personal injury lawyer in Sacramento. Keyless ignition systems are standard in about half of the new vehicles sold. This is a luxury for some but a deadly convenience for others. The problem rests in the ease with which a car can be left running. When this happens in a confined space like a garage, carbon monoxide poisoning can cause death or injury to house occupants. There have been efforts to design the devices so that once the keyless entry fob is removed, the vehicle will turn off within a specified time. These recommendations have not been heeded, and many people have died or suffered a brain injury.
Keyless Ignition System Worries
Keyless ignition systems were developed by Mercedes-Benz in 1998 and started entering the United States in 2002. In 2006, The National Traffic Highway Safety Administration warned that the devices may be safety hazards. The administration recommended that they should be paired with an audible alert if the car was not turned off when the driver exited.
Society of Automotive Engineers
Fourteen days after the warning was issued, a woman and her husband died due to carbon monoxide poisoning when her vehicle was left running in the garage. By 2009, the Society of Automotive Engineers formed a panel to study the hazards in the system. They issued their results in 2011, saying that if the fob is removed and the engine is running, alerts should be used to capture the driver’s attention. They concluded that if the safety system turned the vehicle off under such circumstances, alerts were not needed.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Issues Recommendation
In 2011, the NHTSA issued its own warning. It asked that automakers provide alerts warning drivers. This, they said, would assist in preventing vehicles from rolling away as well as dangers linked to carbon monoxide. Automakers resisted designs that would shut off the car, saying it was less likely that an auto-shutoff would be complied with.
How Much Would Automaker Compliance Have Cost?
The NHTSA said that if the automotive industry complied with alerts, it would cost roughly $500,000 annually. Instead, the industry opposed the idea. In response, the NHTSA made a video in 2016 highlighting the hazards. No regulation has ever been made. When pushed about the lack of regulatory demands, the agency said that when they were ready, they would issue appropriate regulations.
Deaths Due to Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
In 2010, a couple was found lying in their home motionless. The woman died from carbon monoxide poisoning, and the man was left severely brain damaged. This became relatively common in a county where many elderly residents lived. The number of incidents caused the fire chief to provide residents with carbon monoxide detectors and signage for their garages asking them if their car was turned off. After this, the number of incidents decreased by about 30 percent. The absolute number of deaths in this one state is unknown. However, an investigative report puts it at 28 fatalities and about 45 injuries.
How Does Carbon Monoxide Kill?
Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas that is clear. It robs the brain and heart of oxygen. Some who live, despite being poisoned, suffer an irreparable brain injury. One tell-tale sign is the rash that covers portions of the body or cherry red lips often found in people who died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Wrongful Death Lawsuit
In one case, a wrongful death lawsuit has been brought against Toyota. A witness who testified at the trial said that they were able to drive 250 miles after leaving their fob at home. How the fob enabled the vehicle to start has not been explained. A manager for Toyota North America contacted their headquarters in Japan. He asked if a more dynamic alert system could be instituted, warning drivers of a vehicle that has been running after the driver left. He noted his request was rejected.
Personal Injury Lawyer in Sacramento
I’m Ed Smith, a personal injury lawyer in Sacramento. If you or a loved one has been hurt by a faulty automotive product design, call me at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400. If you find it more convenient, contact me online.
I’ve helped families with wrongful death claims since 1982. I’ve also assisted residents of Sacramento to obtain the compensation they deserve for brain injury and other types of accident injuries.
If you are looking to hire an injury lawyer, you want to know more about the attorney. Go to the following pages to learn about my practice:
I am a longtime member of the Million Dollar Advocates, a group comprised of trial attorneys who have won a 1 million dollar or more settlement and/or verdict for a past client.
Photo Attribution: https://pixabay.com/en/toyota-4-runner-japanese-3245397/
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