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Keyless ignitions killing Florida residents

In Florida - and across the United States - more than two dozen people have died and more have become ill due to carbon dioxide poisoning from vehicles equipped with keyless ignitions. Quieter engines, that run even when the fob is removed from the car, compound the problem. The preventable tragedies that have resulted from the design of these vehicles are the subject of several wrongful death and product liability suits in many jurisdictions.

According to a New York Times report that recently examined several cases, the problem has been particularly prevalent among Florida, which has a large population of elderly drivers who had long-been accustomed to turning and removing a key to turn off their vehicles' engines. The concern over keyless ignitions has grown so strong that a Palm Beach County fire department started distributing carbon monoxide detectors and reminder stickers to be posted in motorists' garages.

Automakers have been aware of the dangers presented by keyless ignitions since 2006 - when a Florida woman died of carbon monoxide poisoning in her home. All manufacturers are required to equip their vehicles with audible and visual warnings to alert drivers that their engines are on. These, however, have clearly not been sufficient to prevent tragedy. Yet, many companies have resisted taking additional safety precautions, even against the advice of their own engineers. General Motors reported that the cost of adopting such precautions is nominal: Around $5 according to GM.

Other manufacturers have voluntarily taken additional steps to make their keyless cars safer. Ford, for example, has fitted its cars that have keyless ignitions with technology that turns off the car if the engine has idled for 30 minutes while the fob was outside the car. Mazda, for its part, has made its audible warning longer, louder and easy to hear both inside and outside the car. But these tragedies have continued to occur. Anyone who has been a victim of carbon monoxide poisoning from a keyless vehicle should consult a seasoned product liability attorney.

Source: New York Times, "Deadly Convenience: Keyless Cars and Their Carbon Monoxide Toll," David Jeans and Majlie De Puy Kamp, May 13, 2018.

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