This just in: if you leave your engine running in an enclosed space occupied by people, bad things will happen. Carbon monoxide gas will build up, probably to deadly levels, unless the engine is shut down and the structure is ventilated. Sounds like common sense, doesn’t it? Sadly, it isn’t, and that’s the basis of a recent lawsuit filed by a New York woman left brain damaged by carbon monoxide poisoning from a parked but running Lexus. The suit alleges that keyless ignition systems violate federal safety standards, as the vehicle can be left running without a driver present.
The incident behind the suit began on February 27, 2009, when Mary Rivera parked the vehicle in question in an attached garage. Perhaps because she was distracted, or perhaps because she was unfamiliar with the car, or perhaps because the engine was so quiet, Rivera failed to shut off the ignition. Carbon monoxide filled the house, killing long term companion Ernest Codell, Jr. and leaving Rivera with permanent brain damage. I find it interesting that the article cites the age of Codell (79), but fails to cite the age of Rivera (similar, based on a photo of the pair). Could hearing loss, or some other age related malady have contributed to the accident?
The NY Daily News article cites another incident of carbon monoxide poisoning, this one in Palm Beach County, FL. A 29 year old woman was found dead last August, with her keyless ignition Lexus running in her garage. Dig deep enough, and I’m sure you’ll find other incidents, but let’s be honest here: the negligence is on the part of the owners, and not on the part of the automakers. To what extreme do we need to take this? Should there be warnings on the coolant reservoir, “Poison, don’t drink”? Maybe we need additional warnings inside the car, telling us that we shouldn’t leave the car in drive and stand in front of it. How about setting cruise control and climbing through the sunroof? As far as I know there isn’t a warning about that in any owner’s manual.
I’m sorry for the families’ loss, but this is one more example of litigation gone crazy. When you buy a product as complex as an automobile (or even a toaster, for that matter), you have an obligation to learn how to use it properly and safely. Fail to do so, and the responsibility (or consequences) rest on your shoulders.