Consumer Reports: Power Window Danger

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More than eighty percent of new cars come with power windows. They're convenient. But what few people realize — certain types of power windows pose a deadly danger. In the last decade at least 25 children have been killed after getting trapped in a window. Consumer Reports says the problem is that switches found in many vehicles can be pushed by accident.

Nine-month-old Faith is Britt Gates' second daughter. Her first, Zoie, would be four now. But tragically, she was killed two years ago. Brit says it happened when her husband put the toddler in his vehicle to rest as he worked close by.

"He was always turning to look to make sure she was okay and he just turned his back for a second."

While he was turned away, Zoie got trapped in a power window.

"She couldn't have been trapped for more than a minute. Because so many people were around But, it's just, it's such silent killer that you don’t — the child, whoever it happens to — can't yell for help."

David Champion, head of Consumer Reports' Auto Test Division, says the problem is many vehicles have window switches that can be pushed by accident.

"This rocker-type of switch is mounted flat on the armrest. So a child can easily put their knee on it. The window goes up, traps them by the neck. And they suffocate to death."

Zoie's parents think she was leaning out the window to look at a dog when she accidentally hit the switch.

As this demonstration shows, power windows go up fast with considerable force.

Consumer Reports says a second type of window switch also poses a problem. It's called a toggle switch and it, too, can be pushed inadvertently.

But not all cars have dangerous power window switches.

"This is what we call the lever-type switch and it's virtually impossible for anybody to inadvertently pull up on the switch and trap themselves."

And some cars have auto-reverse sensors so if the window hits an object it automatically goes down.

Britt says she was stunned the first time she saw a vehicle with an auto-reverse window.

"I just stuck my arm out the window and the window came up to my arm and went right back down. And tears just came to my eyes because I was so angry that that is available and nobody knows about it."

Britt is now petitioning the government to require safer switches. She doesn't want what happened to Zoie to happen to any other child.

Consumer Reports says power windows can only operate if a key is in the ignition. So unless you're in the car, never leave the key in the ignition to play the radio or run the heat or the air conditioning.


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