DALLAS, Texas. New cars are quiet and some can be turned on and off without a key. A recent report by the New York Times explored the danger that keyless cars pose to drivers and families when individuals forget to turn off their cars. The danger is particularly high when individuals park their cars inside their garages. In many cases where injuries occurred, individuals had entered their homes, believing that their cars were turned off, only to die hours later due to carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas that can leave the brain and heart starved for oxygen. Many people die before they receive treatment or leave an area with high levels of carbon monoxide. Others, can suffer serious brain damage as a result of carbon monoxide exposure.
The Times reports that, since 2006, two dozen people have died due to carbon monoxide poisoning believed to be linked to keyless ignition cars left running in garages. Another 45 people may have been injured due to carbon monoxide poisoning after a car was left running in a garage. Based on reporting by the Times, it appears that the automotive industry and safety experts were aware of the risk. At the end of the day, the additional cost of warning drivers that their cars were still running may have led the automotive industry to resist innovations that could have protected drivers.
The Society of Automotive Engineers suggested that keyless ignition vehicles beep when a car was running without the key fob near the car, and others suggested that cars automatically shut off after having been left running for a period of time. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration supported the technology, but the automotive industry didn’t support the regulation. The Times estimates that the technology would have cost “pennies per vehicle.”
Families have been fighting back—and, in the process, have been exposing internal memos within the companies that show that car companies may have been aware of the risk. For example, despite the fact that Toyota cars have warning systems, engineers testified in a wrongful death lawsuit that more effective warnings needed to be designed.
Other companies take a more aggressive approach. Ford’s vehicles shut off after they have been left idling for 30 minutes.
As more people die, more families are pursuing wrongful death lawsuits against automakers, claiming that the companies failed to properly warn users about the risk of keyless ignitions and failed to design the cars with appropriate warning signals. According to CNN, in 2015, families pursued a class action lawsuit against car companies.
While many car companies assert that their vehicles meet or exceed current federal standards, people continue to die or suffer injuries when their cars are left on.
So, what can you do to protect yourself? Double check that your car is indeed off before parking your car in your garage. If you are purchasing a new vehicle—especially one for an older relative—purchase a vehicle that can automatically shut off if left on. Older individuals have been found to be more likely to assume, based on habit, that if they have their car keys, their car is off.
Finally, if you or a loved one was hurt due to carbon monoxide poisoning related to your vehicle being left on, reach out to the Law Offices of Robert Gregg, personal injury lawyers in Dallas, Texas. Visit our firm at http://www.gregginjury.com/ to learn more about how we may be able to help you seek damages for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. We may also be able to help you seek a wrongful death claim, if necessary.
Law Offices of Robert Gregg
2024 Commerce Street, Suite B,
Dallas, TX 75201