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Today’s Automobile Technology (among others) is Wonderful . . . . . BUT

Today’s Automobile Technology (among others) is Wonderful . . . . . BUT

Posted on March 08 2019

My husband and I don’t drive very much. Our annual mileage is just a little more than half the average American’s, which, according to government statistics, is 13,476 miles per year. Therefore, we’ve been known to keep our cars a long time and they’re always in excellent running condition when we’ve turned them in to get the upgraded technology, which we did last year.

WOW! Did they ever upgrade the features this time: cameras all around, blind spot warnings, smart cruise control, and lots of other “bells and whistles.” Why the car almost drives itself. But one change that took me a while to get used to is the keyless ignition. 

I learned that the fob (instead of a key) works well when entering the car and starting out but can pose a problem when leaving. There are two instances I know of when friends left the fob in the cup holder when they stopped and got out, and then their car was stolen, one from the driveway, while he was inside the house, the other right out of his garage, having forgotten to close the door after walking the dog.

But, far more dangerous since the introduction of keyless ignition is another underlying risk. People are more likely to accidentally leave their car running once parked in a garage—the engines are so quiet these days—exposing them to the possibility of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas that is emitted from cars (also stoves, gas ranges, furnaces, or other fuel-burning appliances). When you breathe carbon monoxide, it reduces the supply of oxygen to your tissues and organs. Exposure to CO is usually low, for example, when a vehicle is operating out in the open and when a furnace is functioning properly. But when there’s a significant buildup in an enclosed space, like an attached garage from which it would seep into and spread throughout the house, the undetected gas can be deadly.

The New York Times has identified 28 deaths and 45 injuries from carbon monoxide since 2006, but those figures are undoubtedly low due to a lack of record-keeping of incidents and causes. In 2008, keyless ignition was standard on 11 percent of the vehicles sold in the U.S. By 2018, it was standard equipment on 62 percent of vehicles sold.

Here's a quote from the automotive experts at Edmunds:

“Automakers have responded to the problems associated with keyless ignitions by implementing a variety of solutions. Some models sound an alert, either by honking the horn or triggering an alarm, if the ignition fob is removed from the vehicle with the motor idling. Some vehicles are equipped with devices that automatically shift their transmissions into park when a door opens. And a few systems will automatically shut off the engine if it's left idling for more than a specified amount of time.

“The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) has proposed several regulations that would make some of these types of safety features mandatory for all keyless ignition systems, but to date, no federal rules have been instituted. In the meantime, automakers say they are in the process of voluntarily developing new ways to protect the public from the potential dangers of keyless entry and keyless start.”

Carbon monoxide poisoning from high exposure can cause confusion, vomiting, loss of coordination, loss of consciousness, and death. And, if you’re asleep when it happens, you’ll never know it.

The Mayo Clinic recently made the following suggestions to reduce the risk:

  • Install a battery-operated CO detector in a place where it will wake you up if the alarm goes off.
  • Don’t leave your vehicle running inside an attached garage, even if the garage door is open.
  • If you have keyless ignition, learn the warning signs, such as beeps, etc., that indicate the vehicle is still running as you exit.
  • Have your heating system, or any other gas-, oil- or coal-burning appliances serviced regularly.
  • Don’t use a gas range or oven for heating your house.
  • Don’t use a generator, charcoal grill, or other gas- or charcoal-burning device inside your house or garage.
  • If you have a wood-burning fireplace, have your chimney cleaned or checked every year. A chimney blocked by debris can cause CO to build up inside your home.

“If your (CO) alarm sounds,” the Mayo Clinic says, “don’t try to find the source. Leave the residence immediately, and call your fire department, 911 or emergency medical help. Stay out of your home until emergency responders clear you to reenter.”

Please keep safe.

PS: How many of you remember, as I do, when automatic turn signals and electric windows were the latest technical advances in automobiles? Prior to their development, we had to roll down the window using a hand crank and stick our arms out to signal a right or left turn. (In summer the window was probably already down since air conditioning in automobiles was uncommon when I got my first driver license.)

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