When people think about car safety for kids, the dangers of car windows is generally the last thing on their mind. Yet this hidden danger can pose a serious threat. Children love to stick their heads out the windows, but if the window somehow closes around their neck, it can guillotine a child. It takes only 22 pounds of force to break the trachea of a small child, yet many power windows in cars close with 30 to 80 pounds of force, posing a serious strangulation danger. According to Janette Fennell, founder and president of KidsAndCars.org, at least 35 children have been killed in power-window accidents in the last decade.

Unlike garage doors, most electronic car windows don’t automatically stop and reverse course if they hit something solid. This makes it all too easy to accidentally close a window around a child’s neck or arm. Parents should take the following precautions to try and minimize this risk:

  1. Never leave children unattended in a vehicle, and never leave the keys in the ignition when kids are in the car. Even a if a small child couldn’t start the car accidentally on their own, leaving the keys in the ignition can keep power going to the windows, making it possible for a child operate them.
  1. Whenever you plan to roll up the windows, issue an “all clear” alert to everyone in the car, so that kids can make sure their arms and heads are clear of the windows.
  1. Talk with children about the dangers of power windows. This is something kids love to play around with, and so they need to understand the potential risk. We’ve known cases where kids have snuck the keys just so they could play with the car windows. It’s a button they can push that makes the windows move at their command, and thus, can be as alluring as any toy.

New regulations enacted on car manufacturers in 2010 make the window buttons harder to move as the result of an accidental bump or touch, so that kids are less likely to entrap themselves while climbing around. However, this does not eliminate the danger, and it doesn’t do anything for cars manufactured before October 1st, 2010.