Keyless Car Ignitions: Convenient but Deadly?
Critics say popular feature makes it too easy to accidentally leave the engine running
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 5, 2016 2:29 PM CST

(Newser) – An increasingly common feature that many car manufacturers tout as convenient is actually a very dangerous "defect," according to critics. NBC News—citing stats from a safety group—reports keyless ignitions have caused at least 19 deaths and more than two-dozen "close calls" since 2009. A Washington family of six was one of those close calls when their house filled with carbon monoxide in November. The father took his keyless ignition fob out of his van but forgot to turn the engine off. The van continued to run in the family's attached garage until its tank was empty. The president of Safety Research & Strategies, who calls keyless ignition "an inherent design defect," sums up the problem: "You need the fob to start the vehicle, but it plays absolutely no role in turning it off."

The ability to remove the keyless ignition fob and exit the car with the engine running is especially dangerous in many newer hybrid cars, in which the engine may only come on after the hybrid battery is drained and which often feature "very quiet, smooth-running engines," CNN reports. Many manufacturers are including warning systems or auto-shutoffs in new models to address complaints, but a lawsuit filed against 10 manufacturers is pushing them to recall older models to add additional safety features. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which first highlighted the dangers of keyless ignition back in 2011, tells NBC it should finally have new safety requirements in place next month.