All motorized vehicles, including cars, boats, ships, trucks, buses, planes and trains should come equipped from the factory with integrated carbon monoxide and smoke detectors.
Vehicles should contain carbon monoxide and smoke detectors because power trains can fail and sometimes deliver deadly carbon monoxide into the passenger compartment, killing everyone inside. This happened yesterday, April 1, 2013, when three men got stuck in some mud while driving their sports utility vehicle in the early morning dark. One of the passengers, Shain Gandee, was famous for his starring role in the Music Television reality show Buckwild. The coroner ruled the deaths accidental and declared carbon monoxide poisoning to be the cause of death. The mud reportedly covered the muffler of the truck. That may have forced exhaust through holes in the exhaust system underneath the passenger area, and perhaps some of that exhaust infiltrated into the cabin. The truck was an old model that looks like it’s had a rough life.
It was probably cold and dark out, and I can see the three wanting to stay inside with the motor running to stay warm until daylight. Had there been a carbon monoxide detector on board, the three would have been warned of the danger they were in, and could have shut off the engine and stepped outside for some fresh air. Better to be cold than dead.
Even electric vehicles should have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, since batteries also are dangerous. Additionally, people might use propane heaters inside, and they emit carbon monoxide that can kill you when they are malfunctioning.
Detectors should be hard wired to the vehicle start battery, but should have 10 year on board battery backup as well, like all detectors should. Detector design should be standardized so a detector from a Rolls Royce Phantom will fit a Chevrolet Aveo, and vice versa. That way the cost to replace detectors at the end of their life will be low enough that people will be inclined to do so. There should be an interlock so the car won’t drive past 55 miles per hour unless a working and non expired detector is installed. This will more than gently nudge owners to replace expired or defective detectors. A red light on the dash is not sufficient reminder. Making the car not start is too extreme, since a user might be in danger if they got stranded. A speed limit is a powerful incentive.
A detector like I propose here should cost about USD $10.00 in quantity with the standardization I propose. I am sure Gandee’s family would have loved for him to have had a detector.
In the meantime, before my idea gets implemented on a universal scale, go buy a home style smoke and carbon monoxide detector and install it in your vehicle. If it goes off and saves your life, please tell me so in a comment so I know that people are reading this and acting upon my advice.
I don’t know how many unintentional carbon monoxide poisonings inside vehicles occur each year, but the number must be in the hundreds worldwide. An extra $10 to avoid these deaths is worth it.