‘Horrific’ Incident Calls Attention To The Deadly Risks Of Keyless Ignitions

Car remote
Image via Kiyoshi Hijiki/Getty Images

Keyless ignitions becoming standard has meant an uptick in carbon monoxide poisoning deaths

An unintended and horrifying side effect of the ever-growing prevalence of keyless entry for vehicles is an increase in carbon monoxide poisoning-related deaths. A recent story of a family dying in their own home highlights exactly how dangerous this trend is.

According to HuffPost, father of two Juvenal Garcia Mora started his car and let it warm up in the garage before loading his children, ages three and eight, in to go to school. No one made it out of the garage that die, as all three died. Cruz Isaac was found in his carseat and his sister Mayra was unconscious in the seat next to him. Mora was found on the floor outside the car. Father and son died at the scene — Marya died in the hospital the next day.

All three were killed by carbon monoxide poisoning.

Although this type of death isn’t new and has been happening since cars were invented, these incidents are on the rise now that remote key fobs are so often included with new vehicles. KidsandCars.org reports that there have been 28 fatalities and 71 injuries due to carbon monoxide buildup in keyless ignition vehicles since 2006. Janette Fennell, the organization’s president, says “As more keyless ignition vehicles are sold, we are seeing an increase in these predictable and preventable injuries and deaths.”

While the keyless technology is undoubtedly convenient, they also make it possible to start a car without even getting inside. It’s also possible to leave the car running without realizing it — something I did more than once when arriving home tired and frazzled with my kids. The engines on some newer cars can be so quiet, you wouldn’t even hear them. Luckily, my mistakes only ended in my annoyance that I’d wasted gas by leaving the car running a few extra minutes.

The Mora family and others paid a much steeper price.

While police have not come out and directly blamed keyless entry for the family’s deaths, KidsandCars is using the sad story to point to the potential dangers of remote fobs. This isn’t the first trend in automobiles to result in a tragic and unintended consequence — the new recommendation to leave children in rear-facing carseats for as long as they safely fit has meant an increase in kids dying in overheated cars. A child not being in the driver’s direct line of sight makes it easier for a busy parent to forget their little one in the backseat.

So far, there’s no mechanism or backstop in place to stop a vehicle’s engine if an increase in carbon monoxide has been detected. With keyless entry, the car stays on even if the person holding the key walks away. That’s so if the car is started and the key somehow leaves the driver (as in, I keep it in my purse and my husband drives off) the car keeps going so he’s not stranded while on the road.

As far as keeping your family safe, the CDC has guidelines including: having working carbon monoxide detectors in the home that are regularly tested and replaced, never starting a vehicle in an enclosed space, and never leaving a car running in the garage, even if the door is open.

For the Mora family, it’s tragically too late. There’s a GoFundMe in place to cover their funeral expenses.