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Push-button Start may be Safer than Key Ignition Switches

2014 Cadillac CTS Ignition
(U.S. News and World Report)

In the wake of General Motors' recall of nearly 2.6 million vehicles affected by faulty ignition switches, you may want to consider push-button start if you’re in the market for a new vehicle, as safety issues in key ignition switches are raising concerns.

Bloomberg reports that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has received more than 18,000 key ignition complaints across many makes and models since the 1980s. According to Bloomberg, the peak of these complaints was in 2000 and included reports of keys getting caught in the ignition, vehicles starting by themselves and vehicles stalling while in motion. Ford Focus models from 2000 to 2005 received more than 2,000 ignition complaints, which is more than any other make or model received, Bloomberg reports.

"The key could be inadvertently jarred by a knee, uneven road or weighed down by a heavy key chain," Bloomberg reports. "Push-button start has few moving parts and simply sends an electronic signal to the engine," it adds.

Mary Barra, GM's chief executive officer, testified before Congress this month and stated that the company's faulty ignition recall may push the automaker toward making keyless ignitions standard in all of its cars, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Automotive journalists caution that keyless start systems may require some people to change long-time habits and unlearn their associations with the relationship between keys and cars. Jalopnik reports that the convenience of not needing the key in your hand to operate a vehicle can lead to being absent-minded about the location of the fob. "Old keys had a place they had to be to make the car run, so worrying about where the key was or who had it isn't an issue — it was where it's supposed to be, or no running car for you."

ABC News says the convenience of not needing to remove a key from the ignition may also cause some people to forget to turn off the car. 

Push-button start is no longer a feature limited to luxury vehicles, as many mainstream vehicles are equipped with it or offer it as an option. According to Edmunds.com, by 2011, more than half of new vehicles sold in the U.S. were available with keyless ignitions.

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