American consumer groups are petitioning manufacturers and the government to improve the safety of power windows after children have died getting caught in them.

American consumer groups are petitioning manufacturers and the government to improve the safety on power windows after children have died getting caught in them.

The groups want safety rollbacks so power windows will immediately roll down again if they detect an object in its path. They also want the design of the switches changed so they cannot be accidentally activated.

Safety group Kids and Cars said it had documented 23 deaths from power windows since 1993 but says the total could be much higher. "The industry shirks responsibility for windows they know to be deadly," Janette Fennell, president of Kids and Cars of Kansas City, told .

Ford, DaimlerChrysler and General Motors said their vehicles had switches that allowed only the driver to operate the rear windows. But the safety groups want more to be done. Kids and Cars said that European models of some cars, like the Ford Focus, automatically stopped if a window detected an object blocking its path. But this feature was not on the American models.

The groups sad they were not targeting European and Japanese vehicles, which had these devices. Many of these vehicles have switches that are flush with armrests and must be pulled up to raise the window. The groups want manufacturers to stop using the rocking or toggle switches that can be accidentally switched on.

Britt Gates said the manufacturers should ensure the windows would stop if a child gets caught. Gates’ two-year-old daughter died when she leaned out of the window to pet a dog and accidentally set off the power window. She said parents did not realise that the windows had a force of about 35 kg. "It wasn't a fair match, and now my baby is gone," Gates said.

GM said children should not be left unsupervised around cars. “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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