The dangers of carbon monoxide (“CO") poisoning are generally well known. This colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas is slightly lighter than air and extremely toxic for humans. It is one of the most common types of fatal gas poisonings. Exposure to 2000 parts CO per million parts air (“ppm") for as short as thirty minutes can be deadly. Exposure to only 150 ppm CO over eight hours is deadly for most people. These numbers can be even lower if you have compromised health.
What was not previously well known is that remote car engine starters are a relatively new and very deadly cause of CO poisoning. These devices use a remote to start a car engine from a distance so that the car will be climate controlled prior to the driver entering it. Many luxury and mid-priced vehicles now come with this feature either standard or as an affordable option.
The problem is that many of these devices do not have any safety features to prevent the remote starter from starting your car while inside a closed garage. The devices are quite easy to operate and you may not even know that it was activated. This ease of use and lack of safety features means that your vehicle might be quietly running in your garage and filling your home with deadly CO gas. There have been at least three documented deaths caused by this exact scenario in the past few years.
There are simple ways for vehicle manufacturers and aftermarket part manufacturers to prevent this problem. Systems exist which automatically open the garage door when the remote engine starter is activated. This is an easy solution as most mid to high-end vehicles have built in HomeLink wireless control systems which operate garage doors, power gates, and similar devices. Some reputable after market installers already provide this as an option when installing a remote engine starter. Another option is that vehicles started remotely should automatically shut off if they are not driven within a short period of time, perhaps five minutes.
If your vehicle has a remote engine starter, you should be wary of its accidental use. We should all be wary of products such as this which lack sufficient safety features.