Power Windows: Danger to Children


Author: Lowell Steiger

Published On: November 3, 2009

This morning I read a very common-sense article in the New York Times entitled Power Windows Pose Great Risk to Children, Says Consumer Group. It piqued my interest so I decided to look a little further into the issue.

It makes logical sense that, absent safety precautions, power windows are potentially quite dangerous. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates 1,995 power window related injuries (mostly minor) and six deaths per year. Janette Fennell, president of KidsAndCars.org disputes these numbers saying that her phone and Internet surveys indicate that there have been about 13.6 million power window related injuries over an unspecified period of time. Read their Press_Release.

The NHTSA has imposed two requirements to make power windows safer:

1. All passenger vehicles must have recessed power switches by October 1, 2008

2. All power windows may be closed only by pulling up on a switch by October 1, 2010

So, what kinds of injuries actually occur from power-window related accidents? According to the NHTSA, 68% of the incidents result in fractures or crushed body parts. Other injuries include bruising, dislocation, laceration, and strain or sprain. Most frightening, though, are the deaths among children when their head, neck, or midsection have been trapped in the window for five or more minutes and resuscitation was impossible. When there are multiple children in a car, those witnessing the injury are more likely to panic and call for help than try to operate the power window!

Consumer Reports published a very informative piece entitled Which Power Window Switches Are Safer? The article contains a well-produced video discussing one family’s tragedy and further depicting and discussing three different types of power-window switches.

The Consumer Reports article tells you what you can do:

Never leave children alone in a car or the keys in the car when kids are nearby. Pay close attention to the design and location of window switches when shopping for a new car. Here’s a basic rundown for the vehicles we’ve reviewed:

Horizontal rocker switches

Rocker switches (inherently risky) move the glass up when you press one end of the switch, down when you press the other. Most vehicles from Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac, GMC, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac, and the Saturn Ion.

Horizontal toggle switches

Toggle switches (also inherently risky) work when pushed forward or pulled back. Some vehicles from Chrysler including the Dodge Neon, Stratus, and Intrepid, and Dodge trucks.

Lever switches, the safer type

The lever switch, is safer because it makes it harder to raise the window accidentally. Lever switches must be pulled up to raise the glass. They generally have not been implicated in fatal injuries, according to KIDS AND CARS. Acura, Audi, BMW, Chrysler Pacifica, Honda, Hyundai, Infiniti, most Isuzu models, Jaguar, Kia, Lexus, most Mazda models, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Saturn L and Vue, current Saab models, Subaru, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo.

I hope that this article has been helpful and informative.

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