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Safer auto window switch positive, but should go into effect sooner

New Power Switch Requirement in U.S. Vehicles Will Help Save Children’s Lives,
but Rule Should Go Into Effect Sooner

Monday, Sept. 13, 2004
Susan Herold, CU, (202) 462-6262
(Washington, D.C.) – Consumers Union applauded the federal government today for finally taking action to prevent child deaths in power windows by requiring safer window switches in all vehicles sold in the United States by October 2008, but is concerned that the lag in implementation may result in more unnecessary deaths.
“Requiring a safer switch is long overdue, and we are glad the federal government has finally taken steps to help prevent the deadly threat of child strangulation in power windows,” said Sally Greenberg, senior product safety counsel for Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports.
“But we think it’s important to require these switches sooner rather than later, since the technology has been around since the 1980s and already is in most European and Japanese vehicles sold in the U.S.,” Greenberg added. So far this year, eight children have died in accidents involving power windows, according to the child safety group Kids and Cars.
Greenberg noted under pending federal legislation (SAFETEA: Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2004), the safer power window switch regulation was to take effect no later than Sept. 1, 2006. That legislation is currently in conference committee.
“We think it’s fair to ask automakers why it will take so long to install safer switches, since they already have the technology and are installing it in some of their vehicles,” said R. David Pittle, Consumers Union’s senior vice president for technical policy.
Meanwhile, Consumers Union is reminding drivers to never leave children in the car unattended and not leave the keys in the car. The October issue of Consumer Reports also includes a list of vehicles with “windows to watch” that can be accessed free at www.consumerreports.org/co/powerwindows.
Consumers Union also is pushing for components in SAFETEA that would require the federal government to study the effectiveness of backup warning devices on vehicles. Last year, 91 children were backed over and killed, often by relatives in their own driveways, according to Kids and Cars. As vehicles get larger and longer, it is becoming more difficult for drivers to see small children behind their cars.
“We believe it is critical federal regulators actively support the other important safety provisions in the legislation in order to ensure its passage. Our children’s lives depend on it,” Greenberg said.