A Nationwide Problem: Dangerous Power Windows in American Cars, Pickup Trucks and SUVs
The lack of power window safety devices in U.S. vehicles results in children dying needlessly each year by suffocating when their heads and necks are caught in power windows. Electric windows rise with much greater force than is commonly understood. Cars manufactured and sold in the U.S. generally lack safety features that cause power windows to retract automatically when they encounter an obstruction, whereas cars sold in Europe are required to have these safety features. This auto-reverse mechanism engages when the window hits any object, and can save a child’s life by causing the window to retract when the child’s head, neck or torso is in its the path.
Until 2010, U.S. federal standards also allowed vehicles to be sold with power window rocker and toggle switches, which can be inadvertently activated by a child playing. A rocker switch moves the window upward when you press one end of the switch, and down when you press on the other end. A toggle switch works when pushed forward and pulled back. Safety advocates maintain that pull-up, push-down switches, also called lever switches, which must be lifted up to raise the window, are safer. Children are less likely to unintentionally activate lever switches when their head is in the window.
Currently, the U.S. does not have a comprehensive database to track power window injuries or deaths. However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has conducted studies which show that an average of six children aged fourteen and younger are killed each year in power window accidents, and that approximately 1,943 people are injured each year in power window accidents. A study by the National Center for Statistics and Analysis estimated that 500 people annually are treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries related to power windows.
Advocacy Efforts to Halt Child Deaths from Power Windows
In 2008, the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act was signed into law. The Act directed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to initiate rulemaking on the need for motor vehicle power windows to be designed with automatic reversing systems (ARS) technology. In 2009, the NHTSA studied power window accident data and deemed ARS technology unnecessary. Kids and Cars contests this decision and claims the NHTSA used "extremely flawed data."
As of October 2010, all cars sold in the U.S. are required to have lever switches instead of rocker or toggle switches. However, based on the NHTSA’s 2009 ARS recommendation, federal standards do not require vehicles to be equipped with automatic reversal technology. Until all auto manufacturers agree to make safety improvements to new vehicles and ones on the road, it is only through the filing of lawsuits by the families of victims that change will occur.
Contact Lieff Cabraser
Parents whose children have been injured or killed in power window accidents should contact an auto injury attorney at Lieff Cabraser for a free, no-obligation review of your case using the form below. You are also welcome to call us toll-free at 1 800-541-7358.