Potential Dangers of a Keyless Ignition System

If you have a vehicle with a keyless ignition system, then you likely know what a fob is. What you might not know is the inherent danger posed by car and trucks that use a keyless system. Back in December of 2011, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) warned motorists and auto manufacturers that keyless vehicles were a problem. The NHTSA proposed rule changes that would require some kind of warning system to alert the driver that the keyless car or truck was still running. In addition, the agency suggested that automakers consider an alarm system that would also include eliminating the ability for an engine in a keyless vehicle to be started without the fob being present in the car or truck.

Critics of the NHTSA's proposal to add an alarm system feel the regulatory step is not enough to provide the level of safety needed. Safety experts argue that another beep or flash of the headlights doesn't adequately address the dangers of a gasoline-powered engine left running. With all the regulated safety features that have been added to vehicles over the years, such as air bags and seat belts with upper body restraints, nothing so far protects consumers from the deadly exhaust emissions from an engine. Dozens have already died from vehicles that were accidentally left running inside the garage causing asphyxiation due to carbon monoxide poisoning inside the residence.

Push button start is nothing new. What's new is the electronic fob. In the early days, the vast majority of vehicles relied on a push button start. The use of key became a popular way to protect your car or truck against an easy theft. To crank the engine, a key was inserted before an electric pulse was sent to the starter button. Other early vehicles used a simple toggle switch to be flipped from the "off to on" position before the starter button was engaged. What made a difference in safety for these early models was the absence of an enclosed garage where fuel emissions can create a deadly box of fumes.

The true advantage of a keyless system is to permit starting of a vehicle while the key fob remains in the driver's pocket or purse. The problem arises when the driver forgets to push the same button to shut off the engine. With the growing number of reports across the nation, substantial and immediate industry-wide corrective actions by automakers or federal government intervention seem to provide the most prudent solution. Unfortunately, this could be a case where not enough liability lawsuits have occurred to motivate industry-wide change. That said we might still have a wait for the NHTSA or DOT to take legislative actions.


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