PARK IT Act Introduced to Address Risks Posed by Carbon Monoxide and Vehicle Rollaway

  • February 22, 2019
150 150 Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety

From the Office of Senator Richard Blumenthal:


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Today, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) announced introduction of the Protecting Americans from the Risks of Keyless Ignition Technology (PARK IT) Act to protect consumers from the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and vehicle rollaways associated with keyless ignition technology in vehicles. The PARK IT 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, and a rule that sets a performance standard to prevent rollaway. Blumenthal announced the legislation today at an event in Hartford, Connecticut with Suzi Zitser, whose father died from carbon monoxide poisoning from a Toyota Avalon with a keyless ignition.

“NHTSA’s inexplicable failure to act has led to fatal consequences,” said Blumenthal. “This legislation will require NHTSA to do what it should have done nearly eight years ago— protect American drivers and families from injury and death by finalizing some basic safety standards that compel automakers to address the risk of carbon monoxide and rollaways associated with keyless ignitions.”

“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,” said U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA), a co-sponsor of the legislation. “With deaths attributable to keyless ignitions mounting, it’s time for NHTSA to set safety standards to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning and vehicle rollaways.”

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. The drivers involved in these incidents range in age from their 20s to their 80s. Since that report, there have been at least five additional deaths.

The rise in keyless ignitions has also exacerbated the problem of car rollaways. Drivers of vehicles with keyless ignitions can power down a vehicle without putting the vehicle in “park.” This leaves the vehicle vulnerable to rolling away and causing death, injury, or destruction of property. In the last decade, NHTSA has opened 18 investigations and automakers have launched 93 recalls related to automobile rollaways.

In 2011, NHTSA issued a draft rule to address keyless ignition risks, but the agency has never finalized its rule. Following The New York Times report, Blumenthal and U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) 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 PARK IT Act has been endorsed by: Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Center for Auto Safety, Safety Research and Strategies, and Consumer Reports.

“New technology in cars should make our lives safer, better, and easier. If manufacturers can remove the need for keys to start our cars they can also remove the possibility that our cars will poison us or roll over us when we exit the vehicle, as has already happened far too often. The PARK IT Act will mandate NHTSA fix these potentially fatal flaws in cars with keyless ignitions,” said the Center for Auto Safety Executive Director Jason Levine.

“We thank Senators Richard Blumenthal and Ed Markey for their leadership in sponsoring legislation that will prevent needless deaths and injuries caused by unintentional consequences of keyless ignition systems.  The PARK IT Act combats known problems with proven solutions.  We urge the Senate to move forward with the PARK IT Act to stop any additional tragedies,” said Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety President Cathy Chase.

“Modern vehicles with keyless ignitions have introduced rollaway and carbon monoxide hazards that kill and injure, yet they are technically compliant with outdated standards. The PARK It Act will close these loopholes and ensure that auto manufacturers  provide safety features that only some cars are using today,” said Safety Research & Strategies President Sean Kane.

“The technology is available to prevent rollaways and reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, and the PARK IT Act will help ensure new cars with keyless ignitions come with it. No one should die because of poorly designed controls or because they’re rushing and simply forget to push a button,” said William Wallace, Senior Policy Analyst at Consumer Reports.