Kentucky advocates demand changes to keyless ignition cars after Deaf woman dies

Photo: WKYT
Published: Jul. 17, 2019 at 6:37 PM EDT
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Advocates for the Deaf community are hoping for change after one woman's death last week.

Connie Dotson, who was Deaf, accidentally left her car running in the garage while she slept inside her home.

The car had keyless ignition, so she was unable to hear that the engine was still running. The coroner said Dotson may have died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

The Kentucky Commission on the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing (KCDHH) said this is not the first time this has happened with keyless ignition cars. There is little to let them know whether they actually turned off the cars after they parked.

"The one feature my car has to notify me that it's running without the fob is this very little bitty light that you can barely see in my car," said Blake Noland, Information Coordinator with the KCDHH. "And of course it's not something you see clearly. And I don't hear it. I'm profoundly Deaf."

People with KCDHH began looking into the issue and said they found numerous similar stories across the country.

"So our question is, how many deaths have to happen?" said Virginia Moore, Executive Director with the KCDHH. "How many people have to die with the carbon monoxide before they realize this?"

There are about 700,000 Kentuckians who are Deaf or hard-of-hearing. KCDHH said this is an issue of life or death, and wants car manufacturers to make it easier to know when the car is off.

"When you have a fob that will recognize me in the car and when I walk out, why doesn't just the ignition shut down? Why isn't that a safety feature when the fob's away from the car?" Noland asked.

According to advocates, some Deaf people will not park in their garages because they are scared of accidentally leaving their cars on.

"They have to do a recall or something. This is an issue that has to be addressed," said Moore.

While technology has been a big help for the Deaf community, cars with keyless ignition are not among the helpful objects. The state commission wants people to be aware of this issue and find a solution.