Kreindler Represents Victims of Keyless Ignition Systems in Automobiles
Kreindler represents people killed or injured by vehicles equipped with push button ignition technology which does not require that a physical key be inserted into an ignition in order to start a car.
Deaths are happening and they're not being prevented because of some failure in the administration.
“Keyless” technology is becoming increasingly popular in cars sold in the United States. Most auto manufacturers now offer keyless entry and starting. Toyota has the Smart Key system. Lexus has Smart Access. Ford Motor Company calls it Intelligent Access. Nissan calls theirs Intelligent Key. BMW has Comfort Access. Audi uses Advanced Key. The General Motors system is Passive Entry Passive Start. Hyundai offers the Proximity Key on many models. Mercedes offers Keyless Go in most of its models. Volkswagen selected the acronym KESSY for Keyless Entry Start and Exit System.
There are specific and well known dangers associated with this new technology. Auto manufacturers are ignoring the risks as more and more cars roll off production lines and into the hands of unsuspecting consumers.
The electronic key fob is operable without ever leaving the pocket or purse. Carbon monoxide-related deaths and injuries were reported when cars either failed to shut down or were accidentally left running when the driver and key fob left the vehicle. Likewise, vehicles are inadvertently being left in gear after the driver leaves with the fob, allowing cars to roll and causing severe injuries and property damage.
Our investigation into these cases has disclosed not only fundamental safety flaws, but possible violations of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS), section 114, which prohibits key removal when vehicles are running or in gear. The provisions of FMVSS are intended to prevent vehicle theft and the unintended rolling of unoccupied vehicles. Two specific provisions of section 114 are commonly known to all drivers. One requires that an automatic transmission vehicle must be placed in the “park” position before the key can be removed from the vehicle. This prevents vehicles from accidentally being left in “drive” and rolling after the driver exits. The other provision requires that a vehicle cannot be operated after the key is removed from the starting system. These are both common sense and effective solutions to common safety hazards.
In contrast, most smart key system designs allow an engine to run indefinitely after the key fob is removed from the vehicle and leaves the transmittal range. The car can be driven until it runs out of gas, provided it is not shut down. Likewise, a car can be shut down while still in the “drive” position and the key fob removed from the range of the vehicle, making the vehicle susceptible to unintended rolling.
Kreindler partner Noah Kushlefsky is calling on the federal government to require automakers to implement safety features like an auto shut-off. Noah filed a public comment urging the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) to implement an automatic shut-off for any vehicle left running for a period of significant inactivity, noting a “20-dollar coffee pot” has something similar and is an inexpensive solution. He says many cars already shut down on their own after 15 minutes of inactivity if a driver uses a remote start feature and they can easily be reprogrammed to do the same for push-button ignitions without any additional hardware.
NHTSA said it considered requiring an auto shut-down feature, but in its 2011 proposal wrote “there are scenarios, such as leaving pets in the vehicle with the air conditioning or heating system on while the driver shops or is at a restaurant, where an automatic shut-off of the propulsion system would have adverse results.”
Kushlefsky fired back, noting that leaving a pet alone in an unattended vehicle that is still running constitutes a violation of the law in 45 out of 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The public comment period for NHTSA’s proposed rule closed more than three years ago, in March 2012. The agency had been expected to announce a final rule by this November, but now says it will need more time “to review all comments received, suggestions and options before it can make the appropriate, safest and correct rule.” NHTSA expects to issue a final rule in February 2016.
In 2005, only 2% of vehicles across all manufacturers offered keyless ignition as a standard feature on at least one model, according to Edmunds.com. The technology has exploded in popularity in recent years, with nearly 70 percent of 2015 models offering it as standard, according to the online auto information company.
Some manufacturers have quietly begun to implement auto shut-offs on their newest model cars. The owners’ manual for the 2015 Lincoln MKX notes it is now equipped with “a feature that automatically shuts down (the vehicle) if the engine is idling for 30 minutes.”
Scripps News asked Ford, the owner of the Lincoln brand, and 11 other automakers if they intended to implement auto shut-off devices for any current or older model that remains on the road without the feature.
Only Chrysler responded directly to the question. The company confirmed it does not have a vehicle in its fleet with the auto shut-off feature, but says “customers are urged to follow the shutoff instructions in their owners’ manuals.”
Kelli Felker, safety communications manager for Ford, said instead the automaker would meet any new rule NHTSA implemented and added, “Ford vehicles equipped with keyless ignition alert drivers when the driver’s door is open and the vehicle’s engine is running.”
In an application for a U.S. patent for an auto shut-off device, published in May 2013, Ford Global Technologies, a subsidiary of Ford Motor Company, notes that on keyless ignition cars a driver “may unintentionally leave the vehicle with the engine idling” and acknowledges “advancements in engine technology have made vehicle engines quieter” which can “further increase the likelihood that a vehicle operator may leave the vehicle with the engine running.”
Kreindler Experience with Keyless Ignition Cases
Kushlefsky has sued Toyota three times on behalf of the plaintiffs. The automaker agreed to a confidential settlement in each of the cases.
One of the cases against Toyota, the maker of Lexus, was on behalf of a former Fordham University professor and her boyfriend. Our client suffered brain damage. Tragically, her boyfriend was killed as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning from a 2008 Lexus that was mistakenly left running. The New York couple came home from dinner, parked the car in the garage, didn’t realize they had not turned the car off, went upstairs, and went to bed. The next morning a relative found our client unconscious and her boyfriend dead as a result of the Lexus sitting in the garage overnight, quietly running, sending odorless, colorless toxic fumes into their home.
If you have experienced any serious injuries related to a keyless ignition vehicle, please contact us.