Keyless ignitions

Keyless Ignitions Pose Hazards For Users

Keyless ignitions can be a convenience for drivers but, in some cases, they’re proving to be deadly and vehicle owners and safety organizations are pressuring the federal government to address the issue.

With keyless ignitions or “smart keys,” drivers don’t have to take the key fob out of their pocket or purse to start the vehicle; as long as the smart key is in the vehicle, the driver can push the start button and start the car. The problem comes when shutting off the vehicle.

For the past several years, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has received multiple complaints from vehicle owners regarding issues with the keyless ignitions:

No shut off

Some drivers have been unable to shut off the vehicle in on-road emergency situations.

Shut off in gear

Some drivers inadvertently shut off the engine without first putting the transmission in “park” allowing the vehicle to roll away.

Vehicle didn’t shut off

Some drivers placed their vehicle in park but inadvertently left the engine running. When a vehicle is left running inside a garage, poisonous carbon monoxide can quickly build up and spread throughout the home. At least 18 people have died from carbon monoxide poisoning under these circumstances.

How do you not know the engine is still running?

For those who wonder how can someone not notice that the engine is still running, hybrid vehicles such as the Toyota Prius are silent when running on battery power alone. When a vehicle is left running in a garage, the gasoline motor will turn on periodically to recharge the battery. This cycle will continue (while pumping out poisonous carbon monoxide gas) until the vehicle runs out of gas.

The fix?

NHTSA has proposed adding an audible alarm to remind drivers that the vehicle is still running when the doors are opened. This fix may work for some but, for the deaf or hard of hearing driver, the alarm will be useless.

Consumer and safety organizations are pushing for regulations that will require the manufacturers to add a feature to shut off the engine if the vehicle has been idling for more than a half hour. According to experts, this fix will only require a computer update that can be accomplished quickly and at very little cost.

What should the owner do?

While manufacturers and the federal government sort out who is responsible and what sort of fix should be necessary, owners of vehicles with keyless ignitions should be aware of the hazards and remember to place the vehicle in park and shut off the vehicle using the off button. If necessary, some sort of visual reminder such as a post-it note on the dash might be helpful. Owners of keyless ignitions should also consider installing one or more carbon monoxide detectors in their homes.

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