The New York Times Says Passive Keyless Entry Is Killing Car Owners

The New York Times has published a report condemning one of the most common features in modern cars -- keyless entry systems and push-button engine start -- for contributing to numerous accidental deaths by carbon monoxide poisoning over the past decade.

In its report, the Times points out that the combination of keyless convenience and quiet engines is leading some drivers to inadvertently walk away from idling cars, a situation that can prove fatal if the car is parked in a garage attached to the home.

The NYT says the problem seems most prevalent among older drivers, who may be accustomed to having to turn the key and remove it from the ignition to shut off the car. In the article, the Times tells the story of an elderly man who thought his new RAV4 would turn off automatically when he walked away with the key in his pocket. A day later, he was dead in his home from carbon monoxide poisoning.

No vehicle safety agencies track the number of deaths related to vehicles accidentally left running, but the Times estimates there have been 28 fatalities and another 45 injuries since 2006.

It was in that year that the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) updated its regulations to require automakers to install a warning device in cars fitted with keyless start. That agency pitched a law that would force automakers to program cars to turn off when the key was out of range, but auto industry opposition has left that idea on the back burner.

While no one we here at know has been harmed in this way, we do know one young driver who recently bought a used BMW 3 Series fitted with the company's "comfort entry" passive entry and push-button start system and accidentally left the car running for a couple of hours in a store parking lot.

More to the point, we've nearly walked away from a running car after thinking we'd turned it off when, in fact, we hadn't pressed the stop button quiet firmly enough, so we know it's not hard to do.

As the New York Times points out, most cars with keyless start systems have some way of warning a driver the engine is running without the key in the cabin, but these warnings are widely variable in their effectiveness.

The Times' article is a good analysis of a problem that we think deserves more attention that it gets. 

The key to safety 5/15/2018 2:55:13 PM