“Smart keys” are electronic devices that work with push-in starters on new vehicle models. Instead of putting your key into the ignition, like in a traditional car, these keys enable the car to operate with the push of a button. The new way of starting your car may be trendy and exciting, but it can also come with serious dangers. This is because in an electronic key, the code needed to start the car is on a computer chip inside, rather than in the key fob. The invisible code connects to turn the car on, but it doesn’t always turn the car off. People can often leave their vehicles running, even if they walk away with the key fob in hand. This creates two very serious health hazards.
The first health hazards associated with these smart keys is carbon monoxide poisoning. This odorless, colorless gas comes from cars and can cause brain damage or death while catching the victim off guard. If a car is kept running for a long amount of time, then the carbon monoxide can even seep into a home connected with a garage. Recently, two people died from poisoning of this kind in Florida after their inadvertently left their Mercedes with a keyless ignition running. In traditional cars, the driver needs to place the transmission in park and turn off the engine to get the key out of the car. This is a physical reminder that the driver needs to turn off the car before exiting the vehicle.
Yet with the new push-button ignition systems, the key fob is not necessary to turn the car off. Auto manufacturers have designed these newer models so that they can be turned off with a variety of maneuvers. When someone places the transmission in park, shuts off the engine, or open or closes the driver’s side door it can turn off the car. Yet each car is built different, and it is easy for drivers to get out of the car with the key in hand and still fail to turn off their vehicle. Often, modern car engines are so quiet that a driver may have no idea that the car is still on, but carbon monoxide is coming out of the exhaust pipe and polluting the air every minute that the car is left running. Consumers with smart keys have also complained that their key fob is so sensitive that simple jostling it in a purse or pocket can turn the car on. This can lead to leaking carbon monoxide.
The other danger to these keyless cars is that they lead to rollaway crashes. This is because the driver can exit the car with the key fob in hand and the engine off, but leave the car in a gear other than park. This means that getting out of the car can send it flying off in another direction. In older cars, you can only remove the metal key if the car is in park. Now, with push-button ignition this is not the case. The key fob can be removed while the car is in drive or neutral. The car will then roll with compliance to gravity, and sometimes this leads to a tragic collision.
According to the NHTSA, the Association has proposed an amendment which could improve the electronic ignition system and remove some of the dangers of the electronic ignition system. This new amendment would require that all cars have an audible warning that would go off if the driver tries to leave the vehicle with the key before the engine has been properly shut off. This would remind drivers to assure that the car is turned off because they head into their house or to the office. While the government looks into this possibility, the fact is that there are thousands of vehicles out there without an audible warning system. If you or someone you love was injured because of carbon monoxide poisoning or a rollover accident associated with a smart key vehicle, you may want to seek damages for your pain and medical costs. Talk to a lawyer at our firm today to get representation in your case!