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