The federal agency that oversees auto safety standards said Friday that it isn't necessary to require that power windows operate in reverse to prevent the injury or deaths of children who could be accidentally caught in them.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wrote in a proposed rule that safety measures already in place, such as switches designed to make it difficult for children to mistakenly close windows, are effective enough to reduce risk of serious injury or death.
The agency did propose that reversible power windows, which automatically reverse course when they sense an obstruction while closing, should be mandated on certain types of windows. That includes windows that are closed with a single touch of the button instead of requiring a user to hold the switch until the window is fully closed.
NHTSA estimates that there are roughly six deaths and 1,955 injuries every year from power windows. The fatalities are mostly children who are strangled or suffocated when they inadvertently kneel or stand on the window switch and become trapped. The majority of injuries are from fingers or arms that are caught in closing windows.
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Automatic reversible windows first appeared on some luxury brand models in the early 1990s, and NHTSA estimates that about 40 percent of the power windows on 2010 model cars and trucks included the feature. The technology is much more commonly used in Europe. A list of the vehicles equipped with automatic reversible windows will be published by October on the www.safercars.gov government Web site.
Congress passed vehicle safety legislation in 2008 that required the government to study reversible power windows. But NHTSA concluded that earlier rules the agency made, such as switches that have to be pulled up in order to close a window, are likely to prevent 50 percent to 75 percent of all power window deaths.
Requiring reversible systems on power windows would raise the cost by between $6 to $12 per window, NHTSA concluded.