Toyota Camry Hybrid pushbutton startAccording to WMGT Channel 41 of Georgia, automakers are facing increasing scrutiny regarding the safety of their keyless start systems. According to the NBC affiliate, there are at least three carbon-dioxide related deaths – one in New York, and a pair in Florida – that are being blamed on the technology.

In one case, the family of a Whitestone, New York man is suing Toyota for his wrongful death. According to an older report from the New York Daily News, the family alleges that on February 27, 2009, Mary Rivera parked her Lexus in the attached garage of the home she shared with Ernest Codelia Jr. and accidentally left the engine running. The next day, Codelia was found dead in his bed of carbon monoxide poisoning while Rivera was discovered unconscious on the bedroom floor. She survived the incident, but suffers from brain damage as a result.

Codelia's family is alleging that that the keyless ignition system on the Lexus is to blame for the tragedy and that Toyota should have installed a shutdown switch to kill the engine if the vehicle is unoccupied or unmoved after a certain period of time. The lawsuit says that the keyless ignition system violates federal safety standards because owners can leave the vehicle running even with the key fob in their pocket.

It is at this point that we must note that in our experience, Toyota's keyless ignition mechanism operates in essentially the same manner as every other system used by other automakers, and that cars equipped with the technology are programmed to deliver both audible and visual warnings if the driver attempts to leave the car without first shutting off the engine.

Rivera, meanwhile, has no recollection of leaving the car running, presumably because the engine is so quiet. The family's lawyer says that she "somehow feels responsible" for the tragedy. Thanks for the tip, Jon!

[Sources: WMGT Channel 41, New York Daily News]