EDITORIAL: Keyless car ignitions and death by carbon monoxide poisoning

SHARE EDITORIAL: Keyless car ignitions and death by carbon monoxide poisoning

People have died of carbon monoxide poisoning after forgetting to turn off their keyless-ignition cars and leaving them idling in garages attached to homes. | STOCK.ADOBE.COM

If you buy a new car, it likely will have a convenient modern feature: keyless ignition. This allows drivers to simply push a button to start their cars, as long as they carry a key fob.

It also creates a safety hazard: Dozens of people have died or been injured from carbon monoxide poisoning, including a couple who died in Highland Park in 2015, after accidentally leaving their cars running in garages attached to homes. They forgot to press the ignition button to turn off the cars.

Many newer cars are quieter than ever when they idle, making it easier to forget that they are still running.

Auto companies in the past have lobbied against legislation that would force them to diminish this risk. But it now appears that two, General Motors and Ford, are coming around to federal legislation that would require carmakers to include a shutoff feature for new cars to keep them from idling for long periods of time, according to the Washington Examiner.

Congress should pass the recently proposed “Park It Act,” which would require that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration put in place the new rule.


In 2011, the NHTSA made a feeble attempt at addressing the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. The auto industry successfully pushed back — no surprise there.

If the car industry had gone along with proposed changes back then, the 2015 deaths of Pasquale and Rina Fontanini of Highland Park might have been prevented. They died from carbon monoxide poisoning after leaving their 2013 Lincoln MKS running in the garage attached to their home.

The New York Times reported in May that 28 people had been killed and 45 injured of carbon monoxide poisoning from keyless cars since 2006. Since then, five more people have died, according to the Times.

Carmakers have a long history of fighting advancements in safety.

Fifty years ago, they didn’t want to install seat belts, preferring style over safety. In the 1980s, they didn’t want to bother with air bags, even as evidence mounted that air bags reduced the risk of fatalities and were relatively inexpensive to install. The industry’s resistance derailed legislation for years.

It’s time for that to end. Automakers need to support the Park It Act.

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com

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