Sunday, August 24, 2003

Car's power windows called danger to kids

U.S. carmakers neglecting fixes, safety groups say

By Dee-Ann Durbin
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Two-year-old Zoie Gates died quickly. When she leaned out of her parents' truck to pet a dog, she hit the power window switch with her knee and the window came up, strangling her. Her father was only a few yards away.

Zoie's mother, Britt Gates of Anthony, Kan., is urging automakers to install safer switches and windows that will stop closing if something is in the way. She also is warning parents that windows can pack up to 80 pounds of force.

"It wasn't a fair match, and now my baby is gone," a tearful Gates said.

Gates joined Kids and Cars, the Consumer Federation of America and others last week to launch a campaign aimed at U.S. automakers.

"The industry shirks responsibility for windows they know to be deadly," said Janette Fennell, president of Kids and Cars of Kansas City, Kan.

Kids and Cars has documented 23 deaths from power windows since 1993 but says the total could be much higher.

Kids and Cars is petitioning the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to require safer power windows. The group also is writing to automakers and running public service announcements.

The campaign doesn't target European or Japanese automakers, which install safer switches.

European switches, generally considered safer than the rocking switches in many U.S. vehicles, are flush with the armrest and require users to pull up to raise windows.

General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler AG said they have safety features in place, including driver-operated lockout switches. on all vehicles that prevent children from using windows in the back seat.

They also said any deaths due to power windows are a tragic reminder that children shouldn't be left unsupervised around vehicles.

"We shouldn't leave children alone in vehicles with the keys. That's the only way power windows can operate," GM spokesman Jim Schell said.

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