The agonizing, mostly avoidable deaths of a Passaic lady and her two young children in January as they attempted to stay warm inside a parked car while its engine was still running are among the few deaths that evoke more compassion.
As Sashalynn Rosa’s husband shoveled snow all around them, it covered the exhaust. Lethal carbon monoxide was released into the automobile, killing the 23-year-old mother, her 3-year-old daughter Saniyah, and her 1-year-old son Messiah.
Governor Christie signed legislation requiring the Motor Vehicle Commission to incorporate carbon monoxide dangers in its driver training and testing books as winter arrives, and thousands of dollars were contributed to a funeral website.
Driving safety advocates, like Janette Fennel, have had conflicting feelings about the idea.
According to Fennel, the founder of the Philadelphia-based nonprofit Kids & Cars road safety organization, “Anything that increases awareness of a serious danger like this is a wonderful step. But how do you teach someone to remember to turn the automobile off?”
More than anyone else, Fennel is aware of how ignorance and carelessness contribute to the deadly toll that carbon monoxide poisoning has on vehicles.
According to Kids & Cars, blocked tailpipes have caused 30 fatalities and 15 major illnesses since 2000.
Fennel’s group, on the other hand, is concentrating on a far more recent phenomenon: push-button keyless ignition, which since its introduction in 2003 has resulted in the deaths of 20 persons and the development of 45 serious ailments.
This technology has rendered car keys practically useless as almost all automobiles now have engines that start and stop with the touch of a button.
Today’s engines are so quiet that it’s simple to forget that parked cars are still running, according to Fennel.
Colorless, odorless, and tasteless carbon monoxide emissions can silently enter other rooms in a house or apartment building. They replace oxygen in the body’s vital red blood cells when breathed in.
As a New York couple learned in 2009, a college professor in North Carolina learned in 2012, and a grandmother in Florida learned in 2013, the harm they do can end in chronic tissue damage, long-term debilitation, and death.
Two people died in a car in Hackensack last March as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning, according to reports in New Jersey. In three separate occurrences in February 2003, three men perished near Paterson in similar circumstances. Although no keyless ignitions were used in any of the cases, tailpipes were implicated.
The Baltimore Mayo Clinic provides a number of preventative measures.
All sleeping quarters should have carbon monoxide detectors, and the batteries should be changed twice a year.
Before starting the car, always open the garage door, and never leave it running.
Never operate a generator in the garage or basement, and never use a gas stove or oven to heat your house.
Keep all engines and equipment that burns gasoline thoroughly ventilated.
The engine should be able to be turned off with a straightforward electronic switch, according to River Vale homeowner Norman Wattman.
Brian Gunther, an Ocean County mechanic, stated, “My Ford Fusion lets me know [the car is running] with two horn noises and flashing lights. Why aren’t more manufactures falling into line?”
The majority of today’s cars include auditory systems that warn drivers when they neglect to press the off button, but they are below the 85 decibels that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends.
Several of the casualties were elderly retirees with hearing difficulties, as many readers have noted.
“When you’ve been driving for 40 or 50 years, it’s challenging to break a habit,” Fennel said. “However, even if a driver has good hearing, warnings sometimes can’t be heard over the sound of an automatic garage door closing by individuals of all ages.”
Do drivers pay attention to the warning lights on their cars?
We tend to dismiss ignition warning tones because they are so ingrained in today’s beeps, rings, and chirps from phones and cars, as one Upper Saddle River reader put it.
It would surely be adequate to use the NHTSA recommendation of 85 decibels, which is roughly the sound level of a blaring smoke alarm. While 85 dB is considered “too loud” by Nissan, it “may interfere with the driver responding to the alert.”
Keyless vehicles were deemed a “obvious safety danger” by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in December 2011; this issue might be resolved with a $500 million industry effort.
Automakers have declined, despite already being the target of airbag and brake litigation. The federal agency failed to implement new keyless-ignition regulations by its own deadline of February.