Small children have suffered injuries and even died from accidents involving power windows. Typically, the child is left in the car with the engine running or keys in the ignition. The child leans his or her head out the window of a parked car and then accidentally leans or kneels on the window switch. The glass moves up forcefully, choking the child. Because the window can quickly crush the windpipe, the child cannot scream for help.
Two types of switches are inherently riskier than others if they're mounted horizontally on the door's armrest: Rocker switches move the glass up when you press one end of the switch, down when you press the other. Toggle switches work when pushed forward or pulled back.
The lever switch is safer because it makes it almost impossible to raise the window accidentally. Lever switches must be pulled up to raise the glass. Switches of any design mounted vertically or on an upswept armrest are also harder to activate by accident.
Lever switches and auto reverse sensors are common in Europe. But auto reverse is required in the U.S. only in vehicles with auto/one-touch-up windows and remotely controlled windows. A safety regulation enacted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in late 2004 mandated that all new vehicles be equipped with safer window switches. Automakers, now have to comply fully.
In the meantime, there are plenty of vehicles that still have the riskier designs. You should definitely look for cars with lever switches when shopping for a family vehicle, particularly if you have younger children.
For more information: Every road-test report for each vehicle that is published in Consumer Reports magazine or online at ConsumerReports.org has a section called Driving with Kids, where issues such as LATCH problems, safety-belt troubles, head-restraint shortcomings, and child comfort are discussed.