The death risk with your ‘keyless entry’ car

Reports of two dozen people killed by carbon monoxide poisoning after car engines were left running in home garages has prompted a safety warning from RACQ.

The deaths in the United States have been blamed on the now widespread use of keyless start systems, also known as proximity keys.

According to New York Times the drivers, used to turning and removing the ignition key to shut the vehicle down or accustomed to hearing louder engines running, had thought their cars were off and subsequently died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

RACQ’s Principal Technical Researcher Russell Manning said it was a simple but potentially deadly mistake.

“With the influx of keyless proximity technology it is important that drivers are aware of the dangers. While properly maintained modern cars emit much less carbon monoxide than older models, poisoning can still result,” Mr Manning said.

“While we have, thankfully, not had any deaths in Australia, RACQ has learned of instances where hybrid vehicles have started themselves because they weren’t fully switched off when parked. So, it’s possible what we’ve seen in the States could happen here.”

Mr Manning said the problem could also arise when owners placed their key inside the home close enough for the car’s proximity technology to pick up its signal.

“We see people parking their cars inside the garage, and then leaving their keys on a hook near the doorway. In this case the car can still ‘see’ the key, so it will stay running,” he said.

Mr Manning said while many cars had safety functions to warn if the engine wasn’t switched off or if the key was removed from the vicinity of a running car, not all did.

“Drivers need to take extra care when exiting their vehicles to make sure they were properly shut down,” he said.

“Make a habit of double checking the car has powered down and the key has been removed, not only will it remove the safety risk, but it could save you from a flat battery.

“For added comfort, you could also consider fitting a carbon monoxide detector to the home, which will warn you if there is a build-up of poisonous gases, they work much like a smoke detector.”