[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Today, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Deb Fischer (R-NE), and Edward J. Markey (D-MA) introduced the Stop CO Poisoning Exposures (SCOPE) Act to help protect consumers from the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning associated with keyless ignition technology in vehicles. The bipartisan SCOPE Act requires the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to finalize a rule that vehicles automatically shut off after a period of time to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Because different vehicles emit carbon monoxide at different rates, this bill would authorize NHTSA to establish different periods after which a vehicle would have to shut off.
““This legislation will require NHTSA finally take action to protect American drivers from the fatal risk of carbon monoxide poisoning associated with keyless ignitions. Failure to act will have devastating consequences – a heartbreaking reality too many families have already suffered,” Blumenthal said.
“Many people inadvertently leave their vehicles with keyless ignition running, which can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. This happened to Thomas and Ann MacKinnon of Bellevue, Nebraska, who tragically lost their lives. I worked with the MacKinnons’ daughter, Sharon Shore, to introduce the bipartisan SCOPE Act. This bill will prevent these senseless deaths and keep families safe,” said Fischer.
“NHTSA, our automobile safety cop on the beat, must ensure that novel transportation technologies help eradicate the auto safety challenges of the 20th century, not pose additional dangers in the 21st century. With deaths attributable to keyless ignitions mounting, it’s time for NHTSA to set safety standards to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning,” Markey said.
Keyless ignitions increase the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning with drivers inadvertently exiting the vehicle in park but not shutting down the vehicle. A vehicle left running in an attached garage can quickly fill living spaces with lethal levels of carbon monoxide. Keyless ignitions are now standard in over half of the 17 million new vehicles sold annually in the United States.
In May 2018, The New York Times reported that at least 28 deaths and 45 injuries since 2006 attributable to carbon monoxide poisoning caused by vehicles with keyless ignitions inadvertently left idling.
In 2011, NHTSA issued a draft rule to address keyless ignition risks, but has not taken action since. Following The New York Times report, Blumenthal and Markey wrote NHSTA Deputy Administrator Heidi King demanding the agency finalize and implement its rule. The full text of the Blumenthal-Markey letter is available here.
While NHTSA has failed to finalize its rule, some auto manufacturers, including General Motors and Ford, have taken proactive steps to respond to these hazards, implementing additional safety features –auto shut-off systems to prevent CO poisoning. Absent a final rule, most automakers have not addressed the various risks posed by keyless ignition technology.
The SCOPE Act has been endorsed by: Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Center for Auto Safety, Consumer Reports, KidsAndCars.org, and Safety Research & Strategies.
“Many keyless ignition designs don’t have safety features found in vehicles with traditional keys allowing the engine to continue to run even when driver exits their vehicle with the key fob resulting in 43 known deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning. Ford and GM began adding automatic engine shutdowns to some 2013 models to prevent the hazard, Toyota has committed to including it for 2020 models; but without legislation mandating a requirement, drivers can’t be guaranteed vehicles will have this important safety feature,” said Sean Kane, President of Safety Research & Strategies.
“Forgetting to turn off a keyless car parked inside a garage should not result in a death sentence caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. Requiring technology that automatically shuts off a car after it has idled for a certain amount of time is a commonsense solution to a well-known problem. Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety commends Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Deb Fischer (R-NE) and Ed Markey (D-MA) for introducing the Stop CO Poisoning Exposures (SCOPE) Act. We urge Congress to take immediate action on this lifesaving legislation,” said Cathy Chase, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.
“The technology is available to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, and the SCOPE Act would help ensure new cars with keyless ignitions come with it. No one should die because they’re rushing and simply forget to push a button,” said William Wallace, Manager of Safety Policy for Consumer Reports,