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Introduced to U.S. car buyers in 2002, keyless ignition systems brought drivers a small measure of convenience. But they also created some big problems -- vehicle rollaways and carbon monoxide poisonings. “When you purchase a vehicle, you assume that it has met safety standards. Unfortunately, this is not always the case,” says Attorney Donald Ligorio, Personal Injury Attorney, HKQ Law.

The carbon monoxide problem stemmed from the technology changing the relationship between the driver and the key — without warning the driver of the resulting safety hazards. The keyless fob is necessary to start the vehicle, but it plays no role in turning off the vehicle. Keyless ignition vehicles allow you to take the fob with you, and inadvertently leave the motor running. If the car is parked in a closed environment such as an attached garage, this can be a fatal mistake. Between 2009 and 2016, nineteen carbon monoxide deaths have been specifically attributed to keyless ignition vehicles. There have also been twenty-five “close calls”.

In addition to the carbon monoxide hazard, many keyless ignition models can lead to rollaways. With a traditional ignition system, it is impossible to remove the key without first putting the vehicle in park. But with some keyless ignition systems, the engine can be turned off with the transmission in any position. This makes it possible for the car to simply roll away, potentially creating liability for the owner of a runaway car. In one case, a driver was run over by his own car.

In December 2011, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) acknowledged that keyless ignition vehicles posed a “clear safety problem”. In considering countermeasures, the NHTSA proposed rules to require an exterior alarm system to warn drivers who walk away from a car that’s still running. Unfortunately that proposal wasn’t widely embraced by the automobile industry, because annoying customers with buzzers and beeps is seen as a cardinal automotive design sin. At the time, the NHTSA rejected the idea of an automatic engine shut-off. The agency reasoned that “There are scenarios, such as leaving pets in the vehicle with the air conditioning or heating system on while the driver shops or is at a restaurant, where an automatic shut off of the propulsion system would have adverse results. It is our understanding that some drivers may stay in their vehicles for hours, for example, to sleep, with the air conditioning or heating system on. For the pet owner or the person staying in the vehicle for an extended period, it would be inconvenient if the propulsion system had to be restarted every 15 minutes or so.”

General Motors and Ford were obviously undeterred by the fact that an automatic engine shut-off was not on the table for NHTSA. In 2012 both automobile manufacturers implemented automatic engine shut down features in some of their model year 2013 vehicles. Ford did so without fanfare, quietly putting the engine shut-down information in the owner’s manuals. GM was completely silent on the issue, choosing not to tell customers or even dealership techs about this feature until long after it was implemented in its vehicles.

GM’s surreptitious implementation of the engine shutdown feature raised the suspicion of Safety Research & Strategies, Inc. The nationally known firm which specializes in vehicle and product safety research and advocacy, posed a number of questions:

Why the big secret?

What does NHTSA know about this?

How many other automakers have secretly added the countermeasure?

All good questions which need to be answered.

If you’ve been seriously injured as a result of a motor vehicle defect, call HKQ Law at (800) 760-1529 to schedule your no-obligation consultation.

About HKQ Law

HKQ Law is considered one of the top civil litigation and commercial law firms in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Nine attorneys at HKQ Law were recently named to the 2019 Best Lawyers List and has been designated a Tier 1 Best Law Firm for personal injury, medical malpractice litigation labor law and corporate law in Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley. The firm’s Personal Injury Team, led by Attorney Joe Quinn, has won some of the largest verdicts and settlements in the region's history on behalf of injured clients. The firm was also recently recognized for one of the top 20 Verdicts in Pennsylvania.

The Personal Injury Team focuses on a wide array of personal injury claims and civil litigation, including medical malpractice, auto and truck accidents, aviation accidents, unsafe vehicles, dangerous or defective products, workplace injuries (worker's compensation), construction site accidents, claim denials by insurance companies, dangerous drugs, defective children's products, nursing home abuse and neglect, and falls due to unsafe conditions (slip and fall).

Attorney Joseph A. Quinn is one of only 100 attorneys in the United States (and one of only three in Pennsylvania) honored with membership in the Inner Circle of Trial Advocates, and one of only 500 attorneys worldwide chosen to be a Fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers. He has been a Pennsylvania Super Lawyer every year since the program began and has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America every year since the publication was established in 1987. Best Lawyers also named him top personal injury attorney for Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley.

Since the inception of the firm, the Commercial / Corporate Team led by Attorney Allan Kluger has provided comprehensive, integrated legal services to many of Northeastern and Eastern Pennsylvania's largest corporations, businesses, banks, non-profits and institutions, handling matters involving labor and employment, wills, trusts and estate planning, estate administration, elder law, commercial transactions, residential and commercial real estate, zoning, land use and development, telecommunications, mediations and arbitrations, commercial litigation, title insurance, business planning and business succession, corporate/business structuring, employment discrimination law for employers, banking, creditor’s rights, finance, lender liability defense, covenants not to compete, construction law, mergers and acquisitions and other business matters.

Additional information can be found at or by calling (800) 760-1529.



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