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NHTSA Proposes New Rule Tackling Keyless Ignition Dangers

Under a rule proposed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, vehicles with keyless ignition systems would either automatically put the autos in park or notify drivers when the vehicle has been left unattended. The proposed rule comes in the wake of the injuries and deaths that have arisen when people have exited their autos without realizing they’ve forgotten to shut off the engine.
Keyless ignition systems usually come with a device, such as a fob, that when in the vehicle can allow the driver to start the auto with the mere turn of the switch or the push of a button. However, this has led to some serious incidents and injuries. For example, one of the complaints the NHTSA has received is from a driver claiming to have been dragged through a parking lot after the car started rolling off on its own. The vehicle stopped on the driver’s foot. There have also been reported incidents of people dying from carbon monoxide poisoning because a vehicle was left running in an attached garage. Toyota has already been sued for auto products liability by plaintiffs blaming the vehicle’s keyless ignition feature for personal injury or wrongful death.
One woman, Mary Rivera, now suffers from permanent brain damage because she left her Lexus’s engine running in the attached garage of her residence on February 27, 2009. Her partner Ernest Codelia, who was with her, died from his carbon monoxide poisoning-related injuries.
In their New York auto products liability lawsuit, Codelia’s family blamed the Lexus’s keyless ignition system for not coming with a shutdown switch that would automatically have activated when the vehicle was left unoccupied and/or unmoving with the engine still running for an extended period of time. They also contended that the keyless ignition system is in violation of federal safety standards because the vehicle can keep running even if the key fob is in someone’s pocket, making the risk of accidentally leaving the vehicle on while unattended even higher.
Our auto products liability lawyers represent clients injured because of vehicle defects and malfunctions. Even if a vehicle part or feature works as intended, if it proves to be too dangerous, this can be grounds for an auto defect lawsuit.
NHTSA is proposing standardizing keyless ignition systems that would automatically shut off the vehicles after the power button is held for just half a second. The federal safety agency is also calling for a loud warning sound to go off if a motorist exits the vehicle without placing it in park mode. The sound would continue until the driver makes the necessary adjustment. If the driver were to get out with the key fob without shutting down the car, a warning sound would go off.
Notice of Proposed Rulemaking; 49 CFR Part 571, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, Theft Protection and Rollaway Prevention; Docket No. NHTSA-2011-0174, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, March 5, 2012
Proposed Rulemaking; 49 CFR Part 571, Law.Cornell.Edu
Toyota sued in carbon monoxide tragedy that killed 79-year-old lawyer, New York Daily News, November 10, 2012

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