More keyless ignitions means more worry over carbon monoxide


The prevalence of keyless ignitions is growing, and so too are concerns about carbon monoxide.

Drivers who forget to turn them off in an enclosed garage could be killed by the buildup of the colorless, odorless gas.

Congress is now trying to force the government agency in charge of vehicle safety to act.

Keyless ignitions are now standard on millions of cars. In many cases, the engines run so quietly that drivers forget its running once it’s pulled into a garage.

Lindsey Wilcox had a close call when one of her kids discovered she’d left her keyless van running in the garage.

“In 25 years of driving with keys, it’s a habit you have,’’ Wilcox said. “You take that away and it’s easy to make that mistake.” 

She was lucky. She stopped the engine in her van before anyone in her home suffered carbon monoxide poisoning. Others have not been so fortunate.

College professor Mary Rivera suffered permanent brain damage after she left her keyless car running in her garage.

“I could have died,” Rivera said. “And sometimes I wish I had.”

Her companion, Ernest Cordelia, was killed in that same incident.

The group “Kids in Cars” said it has documented 28 deaths and 71 injuries from carbon monoxide buildup due to keyless ignition vehicles in the United States.

Keyless ignitions are a part of a trend of making cars more convenient for users, but sometimes the technology needs regulation.

“The problem with technology in vehicles is, technology moves quicker than the government is able to start regulations,” said Stephen Phillips, the Traffic Safety Manager for AAA of Carolinas.

In 2011, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed a rule to require alarm systems for keyless cars. They called it a “clear safety problem:”

In 2016, CBS 17 reported the proposal had yet to be finalized.

It’s still not on the books, so the U.S. Senate is looking at a bill that requires NHTSA to finalize its keyless ignition proposal.

Some automakers like GM and Ford have now developed automatic engine shutoffs for keyless vehicles. Other automakers are adding warning alarms.

WTSP, a CBS affiliate in Tampa, Florida, compiled a list detailing which newer cars have features to make keyless ignitions safer.


  • All keyless start vehicles have an alarm built in
  • No shutoff


  • All keyless start vehicles have an alarm built in
  • Starting with 2014, vehicles with push start will shut off after a certain period of time (usually an hour)


  • Many vehicles with keyless ignition have a feature that shuts down the engine after 30 minutes of inactivity if the key fob is inside or outside the vehicle


  • All keyless start vehicles have an alarm built in
  • No automatic shutoff


  • Offer both features — alerts/warnings and auto shutoff


  • Audible and visual alerts when a driver removes the key fob from the vehicle while the engine is running or in accessory mode
  • No automatic shutoff


  • All keyless start vehicles have an alarm and display on the dashboard if the key is not in the vehicle


  • All keyless start vehicles have an alarm if the key is not with the vehicle
  • 2017-2019 model Niro Hybrid and Niro Plug-in Electric will shut off after two hours

But, there are still lots of cars out there which were made before those warning or shutdown devices were implemented.

Legislative watchers say the Senate bill mandating an NHTSA implementation of its proposed rule has a good chance of passage between now and the end of the year.

But, those who have a keyless car that doesn’t give a warning alert or has an automatic shutoff need to be diligent about checking that the engine is off.

It’s a good idea to make sure the engine has been shut it off before walking away from the car.

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