Last week, a horrifying scene unfolded when a father and his two young children died from carbon monoxide poisoning in Louisville, Kentucky. According to sources, the family was getting ready for school during the first cold week of the season. The father was said to have started the car in a closed garage so it would be warm for the trip- sadly, that trip to school never happened. A family member found the father and the 3-year-old son dead in the garage, and the 8-year-old daughter unconscious in her seat. She was taken to a local hospital but died the following day from the illness.
This devastating accident is not only spreading awareness regarding the increase of carbon monoxide poisoning incidents in the wintertime but also calling attention to a vehicle feature that has been linked to several carbon monoxide deaths in the past: the keyless ignition.
Deadly Risks of Keyless Ignitions
Cars manufactured with keyless ignitions have been exploding in popularity in the last few years. Consumers are tired of fumbling around with bulky key fobs and searching for missing car keys in bags or purses. A push start mechanism that doesn’t require you to have a key in your hand to start or even open the car is ideal for modern day drivers. Yet, this convenience, unlike others, comes with a deadly risk.
As easy as it is for a motorist to start a keyless car, they can just as easily forget to turn it off. In most cases, if a driver forgets to turn off their keyless vehicle, a safety feature is designed to automatically shut off the car when the key fob is out of range. However, if a driver forgets to turn off their vehicle when parking it in a garage, the key fob will most likely never hit a distance that would trigger the shut-off mechanism. Not only will the car continue to run until it’s out of gas, but it will be spitting out harmful amounts of carbon monoxide that can easily seep into houses, killing unsuspecting family members inside.
CO…The ‘Silent Killer’
Carbon monoxide (CO) has no odor, taste, or color, and is highly deadly in a short amount of time. Over 430 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning every year in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Known as the ‘silent killer’, CO is most dangerous when people are asleep and completely unaware. Common appliances known for leaking carbon monoxide during use include:
- space heaters
- fireplaces and chimneys
- gas stoves
- leaf blowers
- snow blowers
- lawn mowers
- other appliances that run on gasoline
The Mayo Clinic describes carbon monoxide poisoning as a process by which harmful CO levels build up in the bloodstream, replacing the oxygen cells our body needs to survive. When this occurs, our body can sustain severe and permanent damage to the tissue, heart, and brain. These complications can lead to cardiac arrest, cognitive and neurological disabilities, miscarriages, or even death depending on the length of exposure.
When appliances and vehicles leak carbon monoxide, the gas has to go somewhere. A car parked outside away from the home will allow CO to disperse into the air or to be blown away with the wind. A car parked inside of a garage, however, leaves no room for the gas to escape except into the home through floor/ceiling cracks, pipes, and vents.
Why Do Drivers Forget
Telling drivers to ‘just remember to turn off the car’ is not going to help save lives. There are several reasons for why a driver may forget to turn off their vehicle before entering the home, such as:
- Deep-Rooted Habits: There are very few people in our country that have only driven keyless vehicles. The majority of drivers that started off with a traditional key you had to turn to start the car and turn to shut off the car. This movement has become a habit ingrained into the lifestyle and muscle memory for millions of motorists. With possibly decades of practice turning a key to drive, taking away the step of reaching for a key can completely change the game.
- Distractions: Distractions don’t stop once you pull into your driveway. Hustling kids in the house, running groceries through the door, and continuing conversations on a cell phone could all cause a driver to forget to turn off their keyless ignition before they enter the home.
- Lack of Alerts: A number of keyless cars do not have effective alerts to notify a driver that their car is still running when they put it in park and exit the vehicle. Because these cars are also new and more fuel efficient than older cars, they are practically silent when running in park, eliminating another clue to drivers that their car may still be running.
Safety Tips for Keyless Car Owners
Keyless cars are not going to go away despite their dangers. Luckily, owners of keyless ignition vehicles or consumers looking to purchase one can use these safety tips to reduce their risk of carbon monoxide poisoning:
- Reminders: You won’t remember to turn off your keyless car every time. But forgetting does not have to cost someone their life. Put reminders in your car, garage, and inside your home to prompt you to check that your vehicle is turned off before you enter your home.
- CO Detectors: Make sure your home has working carbon monoxide detectors to alert you if there are high CO levels in your house.
- Buy Safe: Newer keyless cars are being made with better safety features, such as an automatic shut off if the car is idle for up to 30 minutes. Research all models for the ones with the most alerts and safety precautions before purchasing a keyless car.
- Know the symptoms: If you are awake in the home and are experiencing any symptoms such as a dull headache, weakness, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, shortness of breath, confusion, or blurred vision, there may be higher levels of carbon monoxide in your home.
- Keep the garage open: Never leave a running car in the garage with the door shut. This causes a quick build-up of deadly gas that could easily cause you to become fatally ill.
Keep you and your family safe this winter by educating everyone on the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning and staying alert when starting and stopping your keyless car.
If you or a loved one has sustained a serious injury or illness this winter, our knowledgeable team at the law firm of Siler & Ingber is here for support. Contact us at 1-877-LAW-4343 for a free case evaluation today to explore your options for seeking justice.
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