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Here We Go Again: New Litigation Over Keyless Ignition

Posted in Car Tech, Lexus, News, Safety by Kurt Ernst | February 10th, 2011 | 5 Responses |

Lincoln MKS keyless ignition. When you're done driving, turn it off. Image: Ford Motor Company

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.

Source: New York Daily News, via Autoblog

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5 Responses

  1. James says:

    Natrual Selection at work

  2. Taylor says:

    I have to agree that a person should know as much about whatever it is they are purchasing and that the burden of knowledge rests squarely on their shoulders.

    If however, a person is renting such a car (not leasing), then the burden of knowledge rests squarely on the shoulders of the corporation.

    Case in point, I was traveling recently and was given a hybrid as my rental vehicle. This was my first (and hopefully last) time to drive a hybrid. I know enough about cars that I should have asked for information on the hybrid system but didn’t and the rental personnel did not offer any nor question my knowledge of said car.

    The first sign of trouble came when we were trying to get the car started at the rental lot. No place for a key (only a fob) and a push button start. Seemed simple enough…get in, buckle up and push start. Nope, after about five minutes I finally figured out that I had to have my foot on the brake at the same time. Got it started and were on our way. Driving a hybrid is no different than any other car, aside from the eerie quiet, and had no problems on the way to our destination.

    Once at our destination, we checked into the hotel and then went for dinner. No problems as I had the starting sequence figured out now. When we finished dinner (about an hour and a half) we came back out to the car and noticed that it was still quite warm inside (early Jan in SC). That’s when we both realized that the car was still running, and had also been running while at the hotel. I had assumed that the car would shut down when I walked away with the fob in my pocket but it didn’t and since it runs so quietly and gives little to no feedback on the start sequence I had thought that I was restarting the car at the hotel when in fact I had left it running.

    Long story short, nobody got hurt and myself and my coworker had a good laugh about it as we are both motorheads.

    Oh…..also, make sure you ask questions.

    • Kurt Ernst says:

      Taylor, that’s a good point. Rental car agencies certainly don’t take the time to explain vehicle operations to renters, and that could well come back to bite them in the ass…

  3. JimW311 says:

    Sweet, someone else running a good thing for everybody else. I like my keyless ignition. But because of people like that, that’s why we can’t have anything nice in this country.

  4. BigRuss says:

    common sense isnt very common anymore…. if you have your car running in your garage cause its “cold” outside open the damn door. first thing i do before i start my motorcycle of my car is open the garage door. i know even 1 minute of my car running in an enclosed garage is bad let alone 10 minutes for it to warm up so your ass doesnt freeze on your “heated” leather seats… do i feel bad for the people who died from their own stupidity? no and i dont feel bad for their family either. you should know that your car produces carbon monoxide and that its dangerous… just saying some stuff you shouldnt need to think about, it should just be common sense….