Keyless cars are a marvelous technological feat and an amazing convenience. But there’s a downside: keyless cars can kill. This according to a report appearing in the New York Times.
Keyless cars operate by way of a key fob that is activated when in close proximity to the car. The fob emits a signal that allows the driver to start the car with a mere touch of a button. You don’t need to insert or turn a key.
The problem begins when it comes time to turning the car off. In a regular car, the driver turns the key and removes it to turn off the engine. In the keyless car, the driver simply presses the off button.
But people are creatures of habit, and when our keys pleasantly jingle in our pockets, we know our cars are off. That key fob in the pocket lulls us into thinking we’re done and we may leave the car while the engine still runs. That can have tragic consequences, as the car, then your garage, then your home silently fills with carbon monoxide, killing all those inside.
Since this cause of death is so new, no one is keeping tabs on how many people die from not pressing the off button on their keyless cars. But the New York Times says there have been 28 deaths attributed to this cause since 2006. An article in the Globe and Mail cited a figure of 25 deaths due to carbon monoxide poisoning from keyless ignitions left running in an enclosed area. Both publications believe these to be conservative figures.
As of this writing, there are no regulations mandating safety measures be implemented with keyless cars. An alarm system to alert drivers their cars are still on could be a good thing, or perhaps an automatic shut-off when the car is idle for a certain amount of time, or when a sensor suggests the driver is not inside the car. Some car manufacturers (Ford, Volkswagen, Audi, and Toyota, for instance) have, on their own, implemented safety features along these lines.
It is hoped that other car manufacturers will follow suit, since approximately half of the 17 million new cars sold each year in the United States, are outfitted with keyless car technology. Here’s the kicker: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration created a set of federal regulations but the auto industry is stalling the adoption and implementation of these suggested regulations. An expert cited by the Globe and Mail believes that car manufacturers hope to solve the problem through engineering, rather than by mitigating the hazard by way of a warning system.