Since the introduction of keyless ignitions, which do not require drivers to remove a key when parking their vehicle, a new report suggests that nearly 30 people have died from carbon monoxide poisoning after vehicles were left running in garages.
A report published over the weekend in The New York Times indicates that there have been at least 28 carbon monoxide deaths from keyless ignitions since 2006, as well as at least another 45 individuals severely injured by the toxic fumes after a keyless vehicle was left running, often in homes with attached garages.
In many cases, reports suggest that drivers forgot to turn off their vehicle when exiting the car, not realizing that they left the vehicle running.
While no federal agency tracks keyless ignition carbon monoxide poisoning, the Times was able to identify the number of deaths and injuries by compiling reports from police, fire departments, advocacy groups, lawsuits and news reports. It notes that the number of deaths and injuries may be higher than what their findings indicate.
Carbon monoxide is often described as the “silent killer”, as the typically gas has no smell, taste, color or other irritating factors that may allow individuals to detect a leak. Following prolonged exposure, symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure may result in mental confusion, vomiting, loss of consciousness and quickly cause death.
The CDC estimates that carbon monoxide poisoning kills more than 400 people in the U.S. per year, on average.
For years, safety advocates, including the Society of Automotive Engineers, have called for keyless ignition vehicles to have standard safety features that includes a series of beeps or some other notification to warn drivers that the cars were still running, or perhaps shut the vehicle off automatically. While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has proposed new regulations requiring such technology, automakers have opposed it.
Even those who have put in place some voluntary technology appear to have not gone far enough. Toyota vehicles, which include Lexus models, give off an audible signal inside and outside of the vehicle when a driver gets out with the engine still running. However, Toyota and Lexus vehicles have been linked to nearly half of the deaths and injuries found by the New York Times.
Others have gone further. In 2013, Ford added a feature to its keyless vehicles that shuts the engine off after 30 minutes; a feature that only costs $5 per car, but which most manufacturers have balked at adding, according to the report.
Automakers face a growing number of lawsuits over injuries and deaths from carbon monoxide exposure linked to keyless ignition vehicles, according to the report. That number may grow as popularity of the feature, which is available in half of the 17 million new vehicles placed on the road every year, increases.