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Car Power Windows Can Cause Fatal Accidents

In the past decade, more than 30 children have been killed by these windows; thousands more injured

May 16, 2005 | Staten Island Advance

You've spent several hours out doing errands with your 5-year-old child in the car. He's still buckled in as you pull into the driveway. Relieved to be home, you don't pay too much attention to him as you hear him unlatch his seat belt and open the power window to call to his friends in the next yard.

Suddenly you hear him yelling and screaming your name. Turning around you realize the window has closed, trapping his shoulders between the top of the door and the glass. Horrified, you quickly hit the master power window and he is freed. It's not until several moments later that you start to think about how serious the incident could have been.

How could he have hit the switch while hanging out the window talking to his friends? Actually, this is not an uncommon incident. Hundreds of serious injuries are attributable each year to power windows in cars. In the past decade, more than 30 children have been killed by these windows; thousands more have been injured.

Children lean out windows and accidentally hit the switch for the window. As they are leaning, the window closes on their neck, killing them before someone has a chance to get them free.

Why don't they simply open the window? In most cases, the child doesn't make the connection between the window closing and their own movement. The position of many power window switches and the type of switch make accidental opening by a climbing child quite easy. The switch is hit by the child's foot or knee and closes. The child is unaware that he is even on the switch.


This is by no means a new hazard. For a couple of decades, power windows have been a popular option or standard on many cars and trucks. The accidents have been happening for just as long.

There are three main types of switches for power windows in most autos. The rocker switch is typically mounted on the top of the armrest and is pushed down in two directions to raise or lower the window. It's position and movement make it simple to accidentally activate it with a foot or knee.

The toggle switch works by pushing it forward or back. This, too, is usually located in a place where it can be accidentally activated.

The third switch is the lever. These are harder to activate accidentally because they must be raised upward in order to work the window.

Remember the garage door dilemma? Manufacturers were told that they had to have two sensors or electronic "eyes." One of the sensors detects an obstruction, such as a person, in the path of the garage and will not allow it to close. The other sensor is an auto-off or auto-reverse sensor that is activated by pressure on the door. This is intended to detect an obstruction by pressure on the door and prevent the door from closing all the way.


Why not have them in all cars? Some critics say that auto manufacturers feel there aren't enough deaths to warrant such a safety addition.

The good news is that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced that all vehicles manufactured for sale in the United States on or after October 2008 must have the safety feature of auto-reverse windows.

What good does this do now? Not much if your car doesn't already have the safer features. Many cars no longer have the toggle or rocker switches and, in fact, these will soon be against the law.

None of us has a car of the future so in the meantime, how do we keep our kids safe? First, check your vehicle to see just how easily an accidental window closing couldhappen.

Don't forget, the driver may accidentally close a child in the window as well. The auto-reverse feature would prevent this. Does your car have rocker or toggle switches? Does the moon roof or sun roof close automatically? What about the hatchback window?

These have also been implicated in fatalities.

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