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Safety Issues with Keyless Cars

Two safety issues with keyless cars have caused a number of deaths and more injuries. Many of those injuries were life-changing. The issues are (1) leaving the engine running, and (2) unintentional rolling of vehicles thought to be in “park.”  safety issues with keyless cars - Altizer Law PC

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Keyless entry and keyless ignition are now standard in many vehicles. Nearly 70 percent of new vehicles sold are equipped with keyless access as standard equipment. It is an option on many other vehicles, as well. These systems are popular for their ease of use, for the safety feature of controlling access to the vehicle, and because they eliminate the need to fumble for a key ring or insert the key in a keyhole. This is attractive when you are trying to access your car during a downpour or trying to find a key while carrying bags of groceries or other shopping.

These vehicles allow owners to lock or unlock the car by simply touching the door handles. Drivers can also start the car by pushing a button. All of this can be done if the key or key fob is in the vehicle or in the driver’s pocket or purse. The same is true when parking the vehicle or when stopping for a quick errand and returning to the car. This is where the danger begins. More than 28 people have died of carbon monoxide poisoning by inhaling the exhaust from their car that was left running in the garage. It is easy to forget to turn off the engine before exiting the vehicle.

The transition from the standard key is challenging for many people. After 30 or more years of putting the car in park, and turning off the ignition so they can exit from the car, many people forget to turn off the engine and to put the car in park and set the brake. These vehicles run far more quietly than earlier model year cars. Hybrid cars are even quieter. This makes it difficult to hear the engine (particularly for people with hearing disabilities).

One 84-year-old man died from carbon monoxide poisoning. When he returned from grocery shopping, he left the car in the garage, carried the groceries into the kitchen and put them away. After eating dinner, he settled into his recliner to watch the ball game. He was discovered the next day, key fob in his pocket, and the car still running in the garage. Several similar tragedies have occurred across the country. Unfortunately, too many of these incidents have involved children.

Most of these systems include no automatic warning signal if the driver exits the car while the engine is running. Another option would be to automate shutting off the engine if the driver exits the car and there is no weight in the driver’s seat. It is argued by some that this would preclude the possibility of leaving the engine and the air conditioning running for a pet while stepping away from the car briefly.

Some car makers have added an audible warning signal. These include:

  • Ford
  • General Motors
  • Honda
  • Hyundai
  • Mazda
  • Mitsubishi
  • Nissan
  • Subaru
  • Toyota

Those that have no warning include:

  • Chrysler
  • Land Rover
  • Mercedes-Benz
  • Volkswagen
  • Volvo

Government agencies have been slow to require standard warnings in these cars, despite the growing number of deaths and injuries (including damage to lungs, heart and brain).


Another danger of keyless vehicles is related.  People park and leave their cars, believing they are in “park” and that the engine is off. In an alarming number of cases, these vehicles have rolled, sometimes hitting a person, an object, or a child. When drivers unfamiliar with the new keyless systems forget or do not take the appropriate steps to set the brake, put the vehicle in park, and turn off the engine, a tragedy can occur.

These rolling vehicle accidents are quite similar to the danger of drivers backing into or over children in vehicles without backup cameras. One child killed or permanently disabled by a runaway car is one too many. To date, most keyless vehicles have no visible or auditory warning of the driver’s failure to safely park the vehicle.


Keyless cars and other vehicles provide safety and convenience for owners and drivers. Unfortunately, there are safety issues inherent in the technology, particularly when it is combined with a vehicle that runs almost silently. Until safety experts and government agencies work with car makers to require and create alarms and alerts, it is up to the owners of the vehicles to take the necessary (and, perhaps, extra) steps to prevent these dangers. One simple step might be to place some kind of reminder inside the vehicle or on the garage door. Any kind of reminder to ensure that the car is in park, that the brake is set, and that the engine is off, is a step in the right direction.

Call Altizer Law, P.C.

If you or a loved on is injured due to the dangers inherent in keyless systems or in any auto accident, call Altizer Law, P.C. Our trusted auto accident and personal injury attorney, Bettina Altizer, has been helping people recover the resources to rebuild their lives after injuries. Bettina and her team of experienced experts are prepared to hear about your injuries and to represent you to recover the maximum financial compensation allowed by Virginia law. Recovering from a serious injury is never easy. We understand that rebuilding your life and future is often about the money.