Carbon monoxide from keyless cars has killed more than two dozen people since 2006, as drivers unwittingly leave their vehicles running inside garages, a new report has found.
Toyota models, including Lexus, were behind almost half of the 28 deaths and 45 injuries that were identified Sunday by the New York Times.
In all cases, drivers unintentionally filled their homes with toxic fumes by leaving their cars on inside attached garages.
Keyless ignitions use radio signals transmitted through a fob the owner carries to start the engine. But drivers run the dangerous risk of forgetting to turn off their cars before going inside.
Fred Schaub was found dead last year in bed after parking his Toyota RAV4 in the garage and going inside with the fob in his pocket.
The level of carbon monoxide in his home was at least 30 times higher than what humans can tolerate.
“After 75 years of driving, my father thought that when he took the key with him when he left the car, the car would be off,” his son Doug Schaub told the Times. “The plants inside the house lost their leaves.”
The keyless technology comes standard in over half of the 17 million new cars sold each year in the United States — yet there are no federal regulations on automatic engine shutoffs or beeping sounds to warn drivers the car is still running.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration failed three times to adopt regulations that would require car manufacturers to install external and internal warning beeps.
Some brands — like Ford — have voluntarily implemented features where the engine cuts off after 30 minutes of idling if the fob isn’t inside the vehicle.
There is no federal agency that keeps comprehensive records on carbon monoxide deaths related to keyless-ignition vehicles — so the exact number isn’t known and could be much higher than the 28 identified by the Times.
Other people have been left with severe injuries as a result of carbon monoxide from keyless cars.
Timothy Maddock now lives with a brain injury after deadly fumes from his girlfriend Chasity Glisson’s Lexus flooded their Florida home in 2010.
“It’s just been so hard,” said Glisson’s mother, Kimberlin Nickles. “All I’ve ever wanted is something to be done for the cars to be safer.”
Fire officials in Palm Beach County, Florida — a haven for the older generations — have seen a spike in incidents involving keyless ignitions, so they started handing out carbon monoxide detectors and signs with the warning, “Carbon Monoxide Kills. Is Your Car Off?”
“They were literally driving their own vehicles into the garage and closing the door,” said District Chief Doug McGlynn.