Federal auto safety regulators unveiled new rules on September 13 calling for safer power window designs, according to the Detroit News
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is expected to require switches that are less likely to accidentally activate power windows, which have been linked to a spate of recent injuries and deaths among small children.
In the latest incident, Kids and Cars, a watchdog group, said a 2-1/2-year-old boy died in Amite, La., last week in a Ford F-350 pickup after accidentally stepping on a power window switch. It is the eighth child fatality linked to power windows the group has documented this year.
NHTSA Administrator Dr. Jeffrey Runge will announce the new rules in Columbus, Ohio, alongside Sen. Mike DeWine, who sponsored legislation this year to require new switch designs. The law would mandate rules by 2006 and require "window switches and related technologies be designed to prevent the accidental closing by children of power windows." The legislation is part of a highway bill Congress is expected to finalize this fall.
Many automakers have voluntarily phased out the "toggle" switch design considered to be more dangerous. A toggle or "rocker" switch raises a window if pressed forward. Safety advocates say that children can inadvertently raise windows by stepping on the switches. European and Japanese automakers have opted increasingly for "lever" switches that must be pulled upward by a finger to make the window rise. Some foreign brands are also offering windows that bounce back when an object gets in their path.
Some models do have lever switches, including the Chrysler Pacifica, the Pontiac Montana and the Chevrolet Silverado. NHTSA has studied power window design since 1996 in response to a petition from Prospects Corp., an automotive supplier.
In response to the latest deaths among children, automakers have advised parents not to leave children alone in cars and trucks. Electric power windows were first installed mainly on luxury models. But as they became more popular in the 1960s, a new safety hazard developed.
2004 models with window-retracting safety equipment include:
BMW 3-series, 5-series, 6-series, 7-series, X3, X5
Cadillac CTS, DeVille, Seville, SRX, XLR
Chrysler 300 C
Ford Five Hundred, Explorer Sport Trac, Freestyle, Mustang
Lexus GS, GX 470, LS 430, LX 470, RX 330
Lincoln Aviator, LS, Navigator
Nissan Murano, Quest
Toyota Camry, Sienna
Volkswagen Beetle, Jetta, Passat, Phaeton, Touareg