The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has long had regulations in place expressly dictating that traditional key-operated vehicles cannot operate in any capacity without the key in the ignition.
While this rule obviously makes good sense from a safety perspective, it may surprise people to learn that the NHTSA currently has no such rule in place regarding so-called keyless ignitions, a feature that allows people to start their vehicles remotely with just a push of the button and which has been around for close to a decade.
Indeed, vehicles rolling off the assembly lines with keyless ignitions currently have no system in place to warn owners in the event they accidentally leave their vehicle running after exiting it or inadvertently hit the start button on the fob.
While this feature may sound more like an inconvenience or even a possible security issue, it's actually a major safety problem as far as enclosed spaces like garages are concerned. Indeed, recent reports show that as many as 18 people have died due to carbon monoxide poisoning from keyless ignitions since 2009 and that the number of near misses has skyrocketed since that time.
While you may be wondering why the NHTSA has allowed such a serious danger to continue for so long, the reality is that as far back as December 2011, the NHTSA warned automakers of this "clear safety problem" and, while stopping short of ordering them to take action, suggested that they implement the low-cost step of installing warning alarms.
For their part, automakers remained reluctant to implement this step, citing noise concerns.
The good news is that this dangerous reality will be addressed as soon as next month, as the NHTSA is planning to publish its final rule on the issue. The bad news, however, is that agency officials have indicated that the new rule won't be applied retroactively, meaning there will still be millions of vehicles with potentially unsafe ignitions still on the roads and highways.
As discouraging as this is, however, there is currently a class action lawsuit pending against 10 automakers that is seeking to force them to install auto shutoff features on all cars with keyless ignitions that fall outside of the scope of the proposed NHTSA rule.
Stay tuned for updates …
If you've been seriously injured or lost a loved one because of what you believe was a major auto defect, please consider speaking with an experienced legal professional who can examine the situation and outline your options.