Remember when we did a piece on how exhaust fumes may cause brain farts, and how the chemicals from a combustion engine could be adversely effecting our mental processing powers? Despite automakers’ attempts to make driving easier and safer, the best plans can disintegrate rapidly: CNBC reports that 10 of the world’s largest automakers are now being sued over risks relating to carbon monoxide poisoning and keyless ignitions.
The lawsuit claims that at least 13 deaths are linked to the problem, saying that these drivers left their vehicles running in garages under the false belief that by exiting the car it would turn off the engine. The defendants include BMW, Fiat/Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda/Acura, Hyundai and its Kia affiliate, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Toyota, as well as Volkswagen and its Bentley subsidiary. “Plaintiffs believed the automakers’ repeated promises that the affected vehicles were safe,” the complaint said. “In fact they are not.”
Keyless ignitions have received lots of praise since 2003, when they first became increasingly commonplace. They let drivers start and stop a vehicle by pushing a button, rather than finding and inserting a key. But the plaintiffs are accusing automakers of hiding the risks involved with keyless ignitions, and how something must be done about it before more people get hurt. Claiming that automakers failed to install a feature that would automatically turn off unattended engines, the plaintiffs offer a valid point that this inexpensive feature may have prevented the 13 deaths from ever occurring — even though most buttons clearly say “START/STOP” on them.
Meanwhile, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has refused to weigh in on the issue, all while Takata airbags and ignition switches on GM vehicles continue to raise safety concerns. Filed in federal court in Los Angeles on Wednesday, this lawsuit is slated to be held in the same court where Toyota defended itself against claims that its vehicles accelerated unintentionally.
The easiest solution probably should have been done applied a decade ago, as a warning label that reads “ALWAYS BE SURE TO TURN OFF THE IGNITION BEFORE EXITING THE VEHICLE” is a way for automakers to omit themselves from any liability. This would also give the driver a firm reminder as to what must be done every time they exit the vehicle, and strategically placing it above the ignition button would make it impossible to ignore.
Originally reported by Reuters, some may wonder what role the dealership plays in this whole fiasco. Technically, the dealers are the ones responsible for teaching potential buyers all of the ins and outs of a car. By failing to stress to the consumer that cars do not automatically turn off when one exits the vehicle, dealers may have unintentionally dragged themselves into this mess, which is bad for business on a multitude of levels.
As consumers do we need warning labels on damn near everything, and if so, is anyone going to bother to read them? While overly simplistic in theory, this approach certainly is a lot cheaper than paying compensatory and punitive damage settlements, and it is far more logistically feasible than adding automatic shut off systems to every single vehicle, like the complaint demands.
Though none of the automakers listed in this lawsuit have come forward to defend themselves, their lawyers are surely setting up a defense case that highlights how if push-button ignitions were such a threat, the government would have mandated a kill-switch or a warning sticker on them long ago. Surely, someone must have waived a red flag at some point in the interest of protecting both driver and manufacturer, and while an avoidable loss of life is indeed a terrible thing, only time will tell if the driver, automaker, dealer, or any combination of the three is responsible for these untimely deaths.