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accidents and injuries

‘Runaway’ cars are causing damage and imperiling safety at car washes across the country

This detail of a security camera still shows the SUV heading toward the courthouse. (Photo: Screenshot/YouTube)

This detail of a security camera still shows an empty SUV heading toward a courthouse a few months ago. Could it be the same problem? (Photo: Screenshot/YouTube)

The Detroit news station WJBK is reporting on a frightening and costly phenomenon: “runaways.”

It mostly happens to newer models that have anti-theft systems, which get set off by the commotion inside the wash. After three times triggered, the car locks up, and no one can get in without entering a passcode. That’s difficult when the car is rolling away as fast as you can run.

Rodney Watts, general manager of a Mr. C’s Car Wash in Detroit, says he’s chased after cars several times. Usually they crash into a wall, which has raised his insurance deductible to $10,000 and probably cost him business. He says he doesn’t have the resources to sit staffers inside the cars while they’re going through the wash.

Watts offered one idea for a fix: “Have the engineers come up with a car wash mode, you get to a car wash and use the mode and it shuts everything down.”

Ford released the following statement:

“Securicode keyless entry keypad is designed to help our customers gain entry to their vehicles if they lock their keys in the car. If the wrong code is entered seven times, the keypad goes into an anti-scan mode disabling it for one minute. After that time, customers can enter the correct code and gain entry to the vehicle.”

In July there was a strange story about an SUV with nobody in it leaving a Virginia car wash, crossing a street and slamming into a courthouse, knocking out power to the building. Could this “runaway” problem be the culprit?

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