The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said it may propose a rule to standardize keyless ignition systems, making it easier for a consumer to shut off an engine in an emergency. NHTSA likely would adopt guidelines that were forged by SAE earlier this year.
Keyless ignitions have advantages -- and disadvantages, such as allowing a driver to walk off with the electronic key fob in a pocket or purse while the engine is running.
But there is a more serious consideration.
A NHTSA investigation into a 2009 crash that killed a California police officer and three family members in a Lexus ES 350 found that a significant factor was the push-button ignition "with no emergency instantaneous shut-off device."
The vehicle crashed when a floor mat became wedged under the accelerator pedal and the well-trained officer, who was driving, was unable to kill the engine and stop the car.
The proposed standardization might resolve the problem in most cases. But it isn't fail-safe.
Another solution could be a ban on keyless ignitions and a return to good, old-fashioned keyed ignitions. Keys are simple, intuitive and binary; there can be no confusion about how to switch them on or off, even in a panicked moment.