It was a horrific and heartbreaking mistake. A young father used a keyless ignition system to warm the family car in the garage on a chilly morning while he finished getting his children ready for school. They never made it. Juvenal Garcia Mora and his children Mayra, age 8, and Cruz, age 3, were found later in the garage. Mora and his son were both dead from carbon monoxide poisoning and Mayra died later at the hospital.1
Police in Louisville, Kentucky described it as a “horrific accident.” It is a tragedy that is happening more frequently. The New York Times reports dozens of people have died after accidentally leaving their cars running in the garage and many more have suffered devastating lasting injuries.2
The convenience of being able to start a car with the press of a key fob can make it easy forget it is running and it can be harder to remember to shut off the engine if a person didn’t have to use a key to start it. “As more keyless ignition vehicles are sold, we are seeing an increase in these predictable and preventable injuries and deaths,” according to Janette Fennell, president of KidsAndCars.org, a child safety organization.3
Consumer Reports states that if an idling car is parked in a closed garage attached to a house, carbon monoxide (CO) fumes can seep into the living area.4
Consumer Reports calls on all automakers to install “an attention-grabbing warning audible from outside the car” to prevent tragedies. Some car brands already have alerts and some even shut off the engine after idling for a certain amount of time, but there are many that have yet to address the danger. 4
Photo credit: iampeas
Technological advances, changes in consumer purchasing behavior and safety improvements have led to a lot of tragic unintended consequences. The HuffPost reports that “The increase in the sales of SUVs during the 1990s correlated with an increase in “backovers” — accidents involving young children running or crawling behind the car without being seen.1”
And, “The newest rules about car seats — that they face backward in the center of the back seat, which is safer but also out of the direct line of sight of the driver — has led to a spike in children dying in overheated cars — 46 so far this year — because their parents simply forgot they were there.1”
To address these tragedies, automakers have responded by installing backup cameras and new apps are ready to enter the market that would send drivers a cellphone alert if a child or a pet has been left in a car alone after the driver has parked the car and walked away.
To date though, few devices have emerged in the market that would alert drivers to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide or that would automatically sense CO levels and shut the car’s engine off. But there are some promising attempts and one young woman took matters into her own hands.
After her grandparents died from accidentally leaving their car with a keyless ignition running in their garage, 16-year-old Isabella Fontanini invented a carbon monoxide detector for cars to prevent such tragedies. 5 She describes it in the video below.
How You Can Avoid Tragedy
Kids And Cars offers these carbon monoxide and vehicle safety tips:3
- Ensure that you have working carbon monoxide detectors in all areas of the home, especially near sleeping areas. Replace batteries twice a year and replace detectors every 6-10 years.
- Always clear the tailpipe of a vehicle in inclement weather conditions. If the tailpipe becomes clogged with ice, snow or other debris, carbon monoxide can leak into the passenger compartment of the vehicle.
- Never warm up a vehicle in any enclosed or partially enclosed space.
- Never leave a vehicle running in the garage, not even with the garage door open.
- Keyless ignitions vehicles should always be double-checked to ensure the vehicle has been turned off. Even if you take the key fob with you, the vehicle could keep running.
- Do not put children or adults inside a running vehicle while clearing snow or ice off the vehicle.
- During busy times and changes in routine be extra cautious as distractions and multi-tasking can lead to forgetting to turn the car off, even for the fanatically detail-oriented organized person.
- Keep vehicles locked at all times and make sure keys and remote openers are out of reach of children. Children may be tempted to get into vehicles to play or hide.
- Do not allow children to play behind a running vehicle. This is dangerous for numerous reasons. The driver is unable to see them in the blindzone that exists behind all vehicles and they will be exposed to the fumes coming out of the vehicle’s exhaust system.
- NEVER leave a child alone in a vehicle, not even for a minute.
Purchasing a simple carbon monoxide detector saved this woman and her next door neighbor’s life:
What to do if carbon monoxide alarms sound in the home:3
- All members of the home including pets should immediately move outside to fresh air
- Call 911
- Do not re-enter the home until authorities have given you permission to do so
Here is a link to the GoFundMe account that has been set up to pay funeral expenses for Juvenal Mora and his children Mayra and Cruz and to support their mom, Margarita. According to HuffPost, Mayra loved ballet and Cruz loved cars.1
We hope you learned something from our article on the dangers of keyless ignitions and carbon monoxide poisoning. Please feel free to share your thoughts on our Facebook page and please keep you and your loved ones safe by sharing this article or at least discussing this information–prevention is “key” to saving lives.
The video below is a heartbreaking but important reminder that these tragedies are preventable if we inform ourselves:
1Belkin L. A ‘Horrific Accident’ Calls Attention To The Risks Of Keyless Ignitions. 5 December 2018. HuffPost.
2Valdes-Dapena P. The danger of keyless cars: What you need to know. 14 May 2018. CNN Business. https://money.cnn.com/2018/05/14/autos/key-fob-safety-carbon-monoxide/index.html
3Kids and Cars. Deaths of Louisville Father, Toddler Show Danger of Carbon Monoxide. Press Release. 30 November 2018. https://myemail.constantcontact.com/Deaths-of-Louisville-Father–Toddler-Show-Danger-of-Carbon-Monoxide.html?soid=1101740449858&aid=kHEtj7xWARY
4Hard G. Hidden Dangers of Push-Button Start: Cars inadvertently left running can lead to carbon-monoxide poisoning. 23 October 2015. Consumer Reports. https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/cars/hidden-dangers-of-push-button-start
5Chicago Tribune. Student Invents Carbon Monoxide Detector For Cars After Family Tragedy. 21 January 2016. Chicago Tribune. https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/85649039-157.html
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