The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is proposing a new set of standards for vehicles with keyless ignition systems, hoping to address safety concerns that have arisen in recent years. The new rules concern three specific scenarios: the inability for drivers to shut off their vehicles when in a crisis situation, drivers leaving their vehicles without putting them into park, and vehicles being left with the engine still running. Audible tones to remind drivers are suggested for the latter two instances, with a standardized half-second button press to turn off vehicles in the former (the Society of Automobile Engineers International recommended a similar length of time in January). While current regulations require that vehicles with keyed ignitions prohibit the removal of the key until the vehicle is placed in park and properly turned off, no such standard yet exists for push-button ignition vehicles.
The proposals come in response to several accidents, including a 2009 incident when a driver in a loaned Lexus ES 350 was unable to stop the car because he wasn't aware the ignition button required a three-second press to shut down. The production of keyless ignition vehicles has been trending upward, with the report noting that more than 1.2 million such vehicles were sold in 2008. While the agency does acknowledge that enforcing the regulations would add additional costs to auto manufacturers — around $500,000 a year — it suggests that the safety benefits would far outweigh any new expenditures.