I’ll never forget the day I learned of the dangers of power windows, or the date. It was Friday the 13th of June of this year. But as my father would later say in the ER, it was a lucky day for us.
I stopped by our machine shop around 3pm, which is just around the corner from our house, to see my husband and pick up mail and paperwork. We then went home, stopping for mail at the foot of the drive, then continuing around the back of the house and parked by the barn. It was finally not raining for a while and the afternoon was beginning to heat up. The air conditioner in our 92 Buick having been permanently put out to pasture, I sat there behind the wheel, trying to decide whether to roll up the car windows against threatening rain or leave them down to keep the car cooler for our 5pm departure to a ball game. I decided to roll them up.
Up front, my 13-year-old daughter Cheyenne and I gathered piles of mail, parcels, filing, etc. and I called to my son, Mac, age 5, in the backseat to gather up his things. He didn’t answer me, but I was aware that he was up and moving back there. Still behind the wheel, I contemplated the unmade dinner and the disabled computer that awaited me. I gathered my things and left the car before Cheyenne did. I was about 20 yards from the car when I heard her scream. Something to the effect of “”He’s stuck”” and “”he’s blue”” are all I can recall. I dropped everything and ran. As I did, it occurred to me that a power window couldn’t be easy to push down but I was a freaked-out mom on adrenalin, and that window didn’t have a prayer. Was I wrong.
I got to the door. He was limp and hanging by his neck from the rear passenger window. As I approached the car, I could see from his face sticking out of the window that he was unconscious and cyanotic. I opened his door and, admittedly, I recall avoiding looking at my son’s face. I struggled with the power window, which didn’t budge. I couldn’t believe it. (My arms hurt for days.) Cheyenne meanwhile, even though distraught, was able to follow directions and turned the car on and opened the window. I lowered Mac onto the gravel by the rear passenger tire and waited briefly, very briefly, to see if he would start breathing. He didn’t. Since he couldn’t have been stuck for more than a minute or two, I assumed his heart was probably still beating so I went straight to rescue breathing. My RN license came in handy. I gave him one breath. Nothing. On the second, his eyes fluttered. On the third, he began to sputter and cough and then to cry………..very loudly. (Thankfully!)
Our reunion didn’t last long. Within a half a minute, he was buckled back into his car seat and we were on our way to the shop to pick up my husband for the run to the hospital. Considering our distance from town, it was the quickest way. In between episodes of shuddering and crying on the way to the hospital, and explanations to my husband, I tried to put things together. Maybe he had leaned on the button with his knee, (push buttons, I later learned, are key to many power window deaths and are a very cheap fix.) It also had already starting going through my head, “”why don’t car windows work like automatic garage door ?””
Monday morning I got on the phone. My car is a 92 Buick; maybe things have changed since it was manufactured. I called GM. I spent a better part of my morning on the phone. I wasn’t allowed to talk to anyone who had a clue about what I was talking about. We were even “”accidentally”” cut off. I finally gave up and called our local Buick dealer. And no, there had been no changes in 10 years. I then called a foreign car dealer in our town and told him of the near death of our son. He was appalled and exclaimed, “”You mean they don’t have auto-retract?”” I then got on the Internet and found Kids and Cars. I found out that this had been going on for 40 years and that the U.S. auto industry was fully aware of the problem. And if I had been in a Volvo, this would have never happened.
I am so grateful to Kids and Cars for the opportunity to help make this a public issue. The subject of death and injury related to poorly designed power windows has been confined to the privacy of the lawyer’s office for far too long. My greatest hope today is that the U.S. automakers begin utilizing the pullup/pushdown-buttons switches and auto-retract now. In the least, people should be made aware that they are driving around with Guillotines in their car doors. It’s time for the U.S. auto industry to do something about this besides calling us bad parents while they write out settlement checks. “