Highland Park couple’s death highlights poison risk of keyless cars – Chicago Tribune

Posted: Friday, June 19, 2015

For decades, American drivers had to do two things to get their car keys out of the ignition when they left a vehicle: Put it in park and turn off the engine.

But new keyless ignitions have disrupted that habit. Now, drivers can walk away with their key fobs and leave their motors running. Today’s quieter engines also enhance the risk of motorists leaving their cars running without realizing it — a scenario that can be deadly if a car is inside a garage or other enclosed space.

That appeared to be what happened to Pasquale and Rina Fontanini, who were found dead in their Highland Park residence Monday. Authorities and the couple’s son, a lieutenant in the local fire department, said lethal levels of carbon monoxide accumulated in the home after the couple’s keyless Lincoln sedan was left running in the garage, possibly overnight.

The deaths are part of a small but alarming, and seemingly growing, phenomenon of people being killed or sickened by carbon monoxide from a keyless car accidentally left running. Safety advocates say the problem requires an immediate solution, but, facing opposition from the auto industry, federal regulators have been taking years to act.

Nationwide, there have been at least a dozen deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning involving vehicles with keyless ignitions, according to Safety Research & Strategies, a Massachusetts-based consumer watchdog group.

In New York, a man died and a college professor suffered permanent brain damage in 2009 after their keyless car was left running, according to published reports. A young couple was reportedly killed the following year after a keyless auto poisoned them in a Florida town house.

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