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A Moment of Forgetfulness Shouldn't be a Death Sentence


Ever forget where you put your keys? Probably all of us have done this at least a few times. While it can be frustrating and embarrassing, it is not a deadly event. However, a similar mistake – forgetting to shut off your keyless ignition car – has caused dozens of deaths over the past decade and countless injuries including brain damage. The New York Times recently published an article discussing the many lives that have been lost or altered when an owner of a keyless ignition car pulls into the garage and forgets to shut off the ignition. With several million keyless ignition cars being sold annually, this simple, but deadly mistake, is endangering hundreds if not thousands of lives annually.

Elderly drivers and inexperienced drivers are particularly prone to this mistake. Many new cars are so quiet that it is easy to walk away from a car and think it has been shut off. This mistake can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning of not only the forgetful driver, but the entire household.

As pointed out by the New York Times, there are simple and cheap software fixes for this hazard, such as a series of beeps to alert a driver that the car is still running without the key fob in or near the car, or even the engine shutting off automatically after a period of idle time while the vehicle is in park. These fixes cost pennies per vehicle yet many cars are still being manufactured without them and most automakers are refusing to retrofit older models, even though the fix will still only cost no more than $5 per vehicle.

The Society of Automotive Engineers recommended safety features to prevent these tragedies over seven years ago. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has proposed regulations to require that the problem be fixed, but auto industry opposition has blocked the regulations so far.

Product liability litigation against manufacturers brought by personal injury firms like Rourke & Blumenthal is slowly having the effect of forcing auto manufacturers to fix this problem. In the meantime, be careful when exiting your keyless ignition car. Always make sure that you turn it off. Warn others, particularly elderly and inexperienced drivers about the problem. Finally, buy carbon monoxide detectors for your home.

To read more, here is the link to the New York Times article:

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