Senator Grills Nominee on Deadly Carbon Monoxide Risk in Keyless Cars

A top official at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was challenged at a Senate hearing Wednesday over the agency’s inaction to prevent carbon-monoxide deaths by keyless vehicles.

The official, Heidi King, speaking at a hearing on her nomination to head the agency, would certainly not commit to following through on a regulation proposed in 2011 to address keyless-vehicle hazards. The rule would certainly force automakers to install features of which assertively alert motorists of which a vehicle has not been turned off.

Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, pressed Ms. King to treat the lack of such features as a design flaw, to complete the rule-producing process as well as to raise awareness about the problem. “the idea’s potentially fixed very easily, virtually costlessly,” he said.

nevertheless Ms. King, the agency’s deputy administrator since late last year, agreed only to call attention to the issue, indicating of which she needed more information. She noted of which “research performed to date suggests quite a few causes” for carbon-monoxide poisoning in homes as well as of which deaths in such cases were generally not reported to her agency.

Mr. Blumenthal as well as another Democrat, Senator Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, sent a letter to Ms. King on Monday demanding of which the agency complete action on the rule as well as begin to enforce the idea.

“N.H.T.S.A.’s inaction clearly has produced fatal consequences,” the letter read. “This specific problem has not been solved by voluntary industry measures.”

The agency previously said of which the idea relied on carmakers to install such safety features. Some have done so, nevertheless the Times investigation found of which the measures varied by style to style as well as often failed to meet the guidelines of the standards group, the Society of Automotive Engineers.

Documents obtained by plaintiffs’ lawyers as well as safety advocates show of which N.H.T.S.A.’s Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance began to test keyless-ignition vehicles in 2013 for compliance with regulations meant to guard against theft as well as rollaways.

The agency inquiry prompted Ford to conduct a voluntary recall of two keyless versions of which did not have an audible chime to warn the driver of which the auto was running, according to a letter sent to the agency by Ford.

Prompted by the finding, the office expanded its investigation as well as tested 34 keyless versions by Ford as well as six additional carmakers, finding no consistency in safety features across manufacturers.

the idea tested versions for warnings to alert drivers of which the engine was still running, with as well as without the presence of the key fob, which sends an electronic signal in place of a mechanical key. the idea found, for example, of which the 2013 Lincoln MKX sounded the horn twice if the driver’s door opened while the auto was running as well as the key fob was taken by the vehicle, according to handwritten test sheets by the Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance. nevertheless the Lincoln provided no audible alerts inside same situation if the key fob was left inside.

The agency later concluded the investigation without taking action. Sean Kane, an auto-safety advocate who has tracked the regulator’s investigations as well as policies for 25 years, said the failure to pursue the inquiry was a crucial missed opportunity to address hazards linked to keyless-ignition vehicles, including carbon-monoxide poisoning.

“The agency was willing to turn a blind eye to the bigger problem,” said Mr. Kane, who has advised plaintiffs’ lawyers in some of the carbon-monoxide cases. “We have a keyless-ignition system of which operates in a manner of which the consumer doesn’t understand, as well as of which leads to deaths as well as injuries.”

As for the rule proposed in 2011, the safety agency says the idea will be still collecting comment.

Majlie de Puy Kamp contributed reporting.