Rebecca Bernard
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Massachusetts Introduces Bill To Prevent Keyless Ignition Deaths

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If you own a car that runs quietly and has keyless ignition, it’s possible that you might have left your car running by accident. It’s not like you need to turn off the car to get your keyring and unlock your front door. While that might see this as a small mistake, it can be deadly. Massachusetts is hoping a new bill will make these cars safer and keep more people alive.

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Idling isn’t great for your car, but when you let it run inside an enclosed space, like your garage, it can cause a build-up of toxic carbon monoxide gas. If the garage is attached to your house, the gas could move into your home. That’s what killed the former University of Massachusetts Boston Chancellor Sherry Penney and her husband James Livingston, an MIT professor. While the tragedy happened in Florida, it reached up north to the friends and family they left behind. They’re not the only ones to lose their lives to this mistake: Kids and Cars, a consumer watchdog group, reports 39 deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning traced back to keyless ignition cars. About double that many people have recovered from poisoning over the past 15 years.

When you leave a keyless car running, typically the only thing that will stop it is running out of fuel. Massachusetts State Representative Lori Ehrlich, who represents the district Penny and Livingston’s daughter lives in, recently introduced a bill that would mandate auto-shutoff technology for all cars leased or sold in the state. This means that if a car was left idling for a certain amount of time, it would turn itself off, preventing high carbon monoxide levels. Cars would also be required to have some sort of external signal for the driver that they left the car on, and used cars would need to be upgraded before they are resold.

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While that sounds expensive, Boston 25 News’s customer advocate sources report that it’s actually a simple adjustment, usually to the vehicle’s existing software.

Even if you don’t live in Massachusetts, it’s possible that if this becomes law it could spread to cars sold outside the state. There is reportedly already a federal bill in the House of Representatives sponsored by two congressmen from the state.

Carbon monoxide is dangerous, and it’s good that more steps are being taken to save lives. No one should die because they made a simple mistake.