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U.S. Regulators Scrap Automatic-Reverse Window Rule Proposal

U.S. auto-safety regulators said they’ll scrap a proposed rule to require some car windows to automatically reverse if something such as a hand or head is in their way.

Kids and Cars, an auto-safety group that had pushed for the rule, criticized the decision on the measure that they said would cost $6 to $8 a window. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced the decision in a Federal Register notice today.

“When there’s a solution to this problem, why aren’t we implementing it?” Janette Fennell, the group’s president, said in an interview. “I understand that none of these solutions come for free. Should people have to continue to suffer these injuries to be hurt in this way by a mechanism that could be prevented?”

The proposal NHTSA set aside would have required automatic-reversal only on windows that can be raised and lowered with one touch of a switch. The rule wouldn’t have changed standard practice, because manufacturers already have automatic reverse on those types of windows voluntarily, according to Fennell.

Her group and other safety organizations had asked for automatic reverse on all power windows.

Requiring the feature on all power windows would cost about $6 a window, and save two lives and help prevent 850 injuries a year, NHTSA said in 2009.

Already Safer

Today’s automatic window switches are safer than the previous generation, which were levers that could be moved to one side or the other and were more prone to causing child injuries, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a letter to Senator Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat who had sponsored legislation requiring the Transportation Department to consider a window rule.

“There is considerable uncertainty about benefits estimates, particularly with respect to preventing or mitigating the less serious, mostly minor, injuries involving a power window closing on a person’s finger or hand,” LaHood wrote in the Feb. 25 letter.

Automakers had asked regulators not to require automatic-reverse features on all automatic windows. Gloria Bergquist, a spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a group that represents companies including Ford Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp., didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Automakers were concerned that the rule would have unintended consequences with regard to security, said Greg Martin, a spokesman for General Motors Co. The rule would have made it easier for thieves and other felons to enter a vehicle, he said in a telephone interview. Costs were also a concern, he said.

The industry and the government need to focus on more pressing safety issues, such as distracted driving, Martin said.

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