The Hidden Dangers of Keyless Cars
In May, the New York Times reported on the dangers of keyless ignition cars. These cars start at the push of a button as long as the key fob is nearby, no traditional key required. Modern and convenient, yes, but also potentially deadly. According to the New York Times, this feature has led to a number of unintentional deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning.
The exact number of deaths is unknown, but more than two dozen deaths in this manner have been confirmed, while dozens more injuries have been reported. While absolute numbers are low, these were all preventable injuries and deaths.
How Deaths from Keyless Cars Happen
The cause is something so simple: drivers forget to turn off the car. It doesn’t require the removal of a key, just the press of a button, and modern cars are so quiet that it’s hard to tell they’re still running once you step out, taking away the audio cue that the car needs to be shut off.
Left running, the cars continue to spew exhaust, including carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is dangerous because it’s highly toxic and difficult to detect; it’s colorless, odorless, and tasteless.
In the specific cases mentioned in the Times article, all the drivers had parked their keyless ignition car in the garage, not realizing the car was still running. Over several hours that followed, carbon monoxide seeped into the house, killing or injuring the drivers and their family members, often while they were in bed asleep.
Carbon monoxide poisoning results first in headache, nausea, dizziness, and shortness of breath, then vomiting, confusion, and impaired vision as the poisoning worsens. If exposure continues, coma and death come next. Those who survive may suffer brain damage and experience memory loss and cognition problems for the rest of their lives.
What You Can Do to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
The NHTSA proposed a federal regulation requiring automakers to install safety measures in their vehicles to prevent these events from occurring but it didn’t go through, though there’s still hope for the future. In the meantime, it’s up to each automaker to determine which models have safety features and what those safety features are.
If you’re in the market for a new keyless ignition vehicle, pay attention to safety systems with respect to turning off the car. Some cars beep a certain number of times, while others turn off the engine automatically after a period of idling. Still others have no features to alert the driver that the car is still running. It’s up to you to choose a vehicle with safety features you’re comfortable with.
Whether you drive a keyless ignition car or not, it’s smart to install carbon monoxide detectors in your home. The CDC recommends placing one outside your bedroom, checking/replacing the battery twice a year, and replacing the unit every five years.
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