PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - The land of sand, surf and palm trees is now leading the country for deaths linked to cars, convenience and carbon monoxide.
Since 2009, seven of the nation's 21 reported keyless cars deaths occurred in Palm Beach County, according to KidsAndCars.org, a non-profit that tracks how often kids are left unattended in or around vehicles. The national group also started documented injuries and deaths involving keyless ignition systems.
Those deaths, include the death of 61-year-old Jeffrey Shasteen. His family recently filed a lawsuit against Hyundai Motor America Corp. Shasteen was found barely alive in his Palm Beach Gardens condo in November, 2014. He died at a local hospital a few days later. According to the lawsuit, high levels of carbon monoxide were detected in Shasteen's home while Shasteen's 2009 keyless Hyundai Genesis sat in the garage.
"He came home and was watching the Brown versus Bengals football game and unbeknownst to him either he left the vehicle running downstairs or it reactivated and carbon monoxide poisoned him and took his life unfortunately," said family attorney Lance Ivey of Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey and Fronrath.
Hyundai issued this response:
We just received the lawsuit last week and are investigating now. The Genesis has both audible and visual alerts that are activated should the driver leave the vehicle with the engine running and the key in their possession.
In the summer of 2010, 29-year-old Chasity Glisson of Boca Raton also died after leaving her keyless Lexus running in her Boca Raton garage.
"It's like a bad dream that you just don't want to wake up from," Chasity’s boyfriend Tim Maddock told the Contact 5 Investigators in 2011 when we first started looking into the deadly consequences of keyless ignition cars.
Adele Ridless and Mort Victor also of Boca Raton lost their lives in 2012.
Keyless cars allow drivers to start and stop their engines with the push of a button, but in many keyless cars, nothing is in place to turn the car off or even alert the driver if they forget to press the off button.
Immediately after our investigation, U.S. Congressman Tom Rooney (R-17) responded with a call for change.
"It should come with some fail safe mechanism that says the car is idle for 30 seconds, or more maybe, it automatically shuts down," he said back in 2011.
“NHTSA has the power to enact regulations to prevent this sort of tragedy from occurring; they just need to use it," said U.S. Senator Bill Nelson. "The new keyless-ignition rules NHTSA is considering have been sitting idle for far too long. The agency needs to get moving and do its part to protect consumers,” he told the Contact 5 Investigators on Friday.
While car manufacturers have balked at some of the safeguards being considered, victims like Tim Maddock are still pressing for change before another keyless car death makes headlines.
NHTSA is proposing audible warnings in keyless cars to alert drivers who leave their cars running.
While a final rule was expected last year, a NHTSA spokesman told the Contact 5 Investigators the agency is still seeking public comment on the issue.
Instructions on how to voice public comment on the issue of keyless car ignition safeguards:
You may submit comments to the docket number identified in the heading of this document by any of the following methods:
• Mail: Docket Management Facility, M-30, U.S. Department of Transportation, West Building, Ground Floor, Rm. W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE. Washington, DC 20590.
• Hand Delivery or Courier: West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.
• Fax: (202) 493-2251.
Regardless of how you submit your comments, you should mention the docket number of this document.
You may call the Docket at (202) 366-9324.
Instructions: For detailed instructions on submitting comments and additional information on the rulemaking process, see the Public Participation heading of the Supplementary Information section of this document. Note that all comments received will be posted without change to http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal information provided.
Privacy Act: Please see the Privacy Act heading under Rulemaking Analyses and Notices.
Recently NHTSA released a new keyless ignitions consumer video and safety tips that you may want to include in your story. The link is below.