A Modern Hazard

Car engines should shut themselves off after a proscribed length of time if the engine isn’t shut down by a person.
Car engines should shut themselves off after a proscribed length of time if the engine isn’t shut down by a person.

Dying to have a new car with all the techno-wow features you see endlessly advertised? The manufacturers are surely glad to provide you with them. Just make sure they’ve perfected them before they cause injury – or worse.

The news has been alight in recent days of a New York Times investigation into keyless vehicles being unwittingly left running by their owners, who subsequently die or suffer injury due to carbon monoxide seeping into their homes. I wrote about this three years ago; the NYT reveals not nearly enough has been done in that time to stop the fatalities. Without the familiar process of removing a key from an ignition, some presume their car is shut off and exit it, leaving the engine running. With the use of now-ubiquitous key fobs, there’s a chance your key never left your pocket, let alone needing to be removed from the ignition.

People are fallible. Accidental carbon monoxide poisonings from cars left running in a garage are hardly new. For decades, specialists in the field, like Dr. Neil Hampson from Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, Washington, have advocated the importance of properly functioning carbon monoxide detectors to save lives. He’s right.

But advances in automotive technology are now highlighting the ever-changing role played by the automakers. Older reports, especially in colder climates, used to highlight the dangers of warming up your car in a garage whether you’d opened the door or not. Sometimes, people would go start up a car and forget it was running.

The results read like a tragic roll call of unintended consequences with entire families swallowed by the deadly gas. Now, with the advent of quieter engines and keyless cars, the tragedies are arising from drivers unaware they’ve left their car running at all.

[Interesting Read]

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