Auto manufacturers have been through the ringer the last few years, admittedly by their own fault. Toyota’s “unintended acceleration” deal. GM’s ignition system. Honda’s actions that pre-empted the Takata airbag recall. FCA/Chrysler’s inactions regarding prior recalls. They’ve been through hell, sure. But of all of the lawsuits brought against auto manufacturers, the latest one is up at the top as what has to be the stupidest one possible. Ten auto manufacturers were named in a California lawsuit (Draeger et al v. Toyota Motor Sales USA) that, in short terms, blames thirteen carbon monoxide poisoning deaths upon vehicles with a keyless ignition system that the operator of the vehicle failed to turn off when they left the vehicle. As the automobile kept running, presumably in a garage attached to a house, exhaust fumes built up, ultimately causing death. According to the lawsuit, the victims held a mistaken belief that the vehicle would shut off on it’s own after they left the vehicle and took the key fob with them. The suit claims that manufacturers “had actual knowledge of the dangerous carbon monoxide poisoning consequences of vehicles with keyless fobs that lack an automatic shut-off”.
This isn’t something to blame the manufacturer on, this was a fatal mistake made by a human being that:
- Wasn’t properly informed on how the start/stop/key fob system of their new vehicle functioned;
- Didn’t have enough knowledge about the functions of the vehicle they were operating, allowing them to operate it in a safe manner; and
- Did not have enough awareness of their surroundings that they could not hear a running car in the confines of their own garage, and/or did not bother to check and verify that the vehicle was off when they left it.
It is with every ounce of restraint that I have that I simply do not unload my opinions at the computer on this story in full, uncut terms. The manufacturers did not fail here. Of course manufacturers have known of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning…how many people have died of intentional carbon monoxide poisoning via automobile? What failed were the operators. These people did not know, or understand, how to operate the car properly. They assumed that the car would automatically shut off when the electronic fob left the car. Assumption is a dangerous thing, and these people wound up being a testament as to why. We can preach on and on about how vehicles are unsafe, but in the end it is driver responsibility, from start to end, that makes up a lot of the issues that we have regarding human beings and vehicles.
It is my opinion…and ONLY my opinion…that if you cannot be bothered to take a half-second and verify that your vehicle has turned off, or that you cannot hit the “OFF” button, that you do not need a driver’s license. Call me calloused, but if you think that a brand-new car will do everything for you, and that you don’t have to think or interact with the two tons of rubber, glass and metal that you operate every day at speed, then you don’t need to drive. This lawsuit is frivolous and the only shred of merit to come from it is to jar the public’s awareness of such an incident occurring. That’s it. Automobiles are naturally dangerous; that’s been an accepted part of their usage ever since inventors started replacing the horse. But what happened to the thirteen people who died was not the fault of an automobile manufacturer. It was their own stupidity and ignorance. You had the ability to hit the button once to start the car…surely you can be bothered to hit the button again to shut it off.