Push button ignition cars are becoming more and more common in Canada.  However, this new modern convenience of pushing a button to power your vehicle rather than turning a key can lead to lethal consequences.


Keyless ignition systems began appearing on cars in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but were initially only available on luxury or high-end vehicles.  However, push button ignition is becoming more commonplace and 62% of all vehicles sold in the United States came equipped with these standard systems in 2018.

Vehicles that have keyless ignition systems come with a key fob.  The fob can be kept in your pocket, purse, briefcase or somewhere in close proximity to the receiver inside of the vehicle.  The fob transmits a low-frequency signal to the vehicle’s computer system, which allows you to push a button on the dashboard or console of the vehicle to start the engine. 

These vehicles equipped with push button ignition come equipped with pre-start safety checks to ensure that the vehicle is in park and that your foot is on the brake before allowing the engine to start.  Some vehicles may even require that you flick or rotate a switch before pressing start and in most cases the fob key must be inside the vehicle before the engine will start running.


Although a keyless ignition system is extremely convenient, it does come with a few drawbacks.  Dangers may arise if one forgets to turn off their engine, since you do not have to remove a key and the engines these days are exceptionally quiet.

According to a New York Times investigation, 28 people in the United States have died and 45 others have been injured from carbon monoxide poisoning since 2006 as a result of keyless ignition cars.  If a car is left running in an enclosed garage, carbon monoxide (which is odorless and colourless) can fill the garage and seep into the attached home. There is no information available regarding incidents of this nature in Canada.

Another safety problem associated with keyless ignition systems and those individuals that forget to turn off their vehicle before exiting is the risk of the car rolling away.  If a driver forgets to turn the car off before shifting into park, the vehicle is likely to roll away or lurch forward and drag the driver along.  This can result in very severe injuries or property damage. 


In the United States, safety groups have appealed for regulations to prevent keyless cars from running unattended.

A proposed law called the “PARK IT Act” (“Protecting Americans from the Risks of Keyless Ignition Technology Act”) was introduced in the United States Congress in February, 2019 in an effort to protect against the risk of keyless technology.  The proposed law includes the following:

  • That automakers be required to provide an automatic shutoff for keyless internal combustion engines when the car has been idling for a designated period of time;
  • That automakers add an anti-rollaway feature to immobilize a car if a driver exits the vehicle, but leaves the vehicle in gear;
  • That the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issue rules within two years of the law’s passage.

Toyota Canada Inc. recently announced that it will be adding automatic engine shutoff and automatic park technology to its 2020 model year vehicle lineup.  They will also be adding more noticeable warning sounds and visual alerts to its new models and drivers will have the option of being alerted through their smartphone that their car is still running.

In Canada, there are no keyless ignition standards in the automobile industry to protect users of push button cars from carbon monoxide poisoning.  We will report in this blog if any legislative or industry standard information becomes available in this regard.

Cuming & Gillespie LLP would like to provide a few recommendations to safeguard against the risks of keyless ignition systems:

  • Always read your owner’s manual to educate yourself on how to operate your vehicle’s keyless ignition system properly;
  • Develop good driver habits and routines and make sure that your car is in park and that the engine is shut off before departing from your vehicle;
  • Before purchasing a new vehicle, research the keyless ignition systems and other safety devices available to safeguard against the risk of leaving a vehicle running or in gear; and
  • Be sure to install working CO detectors in your home and consider installing them inside your garage as well.

If you or a loved one have suffered a serious personal injury as a result of a motor vehicle accident you may be entitled to compensation for the damages you have suffered.  Please contact the award winning lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie LLP either online or by calling 403-571-0555.  We can get started with a free case evaluation and are dedicated to providing you with the legal help you deserve.