Vehicle makers have reached a deal with the US government to have a safety system in all new vehicles by 2010 to prevent someone from accidentally shifting a vehicle out of park, officials said late on Thursday.

Nineteen auto makers that operate in the US reached the deal with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, The Associated Press reported.

The brake interlock system stops vehicles from being shifted out of park without depressing the brake pedal and prevents the vehicle from unintentionally rolling away.

The report noted that automakers have been sued over a number of accidents involving vehicles accidentally put in gear. About 3m vehicles sold each year in the US lack a brake-shift interlock.

"Children and car keys should always be separated, but brake interlocks are an extra measure of protection for everyone," said Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers president and CEO Fred Webber, whose organisation represents nine automakers, including General Motors, Ford, DaimlerChrysler and Toyota.

"This agreement shows how the automobile industry can voluntarily work together with federal and state policy makers to identify and help resolve safety issues," said Association of International Automobile Manufacturers president and CEO Michael Stanton, representing 14 automakers, including Toyota, Honda and Nissan Motor.

AP said the safety upgrades are included in legislation being pushed by senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Sununu to prevent children from being backed over by vehicles, strangled in a power window or killed when the vehicle inadvertently shifts into gear.

"Providing for our children's safety shouldn't be a luxury item when purchasing a vehicle. We have the technology today to prevent thousands of deaths and injuries from occurring, literally, at our doorsteps," the senators wrote in a 10 August editorial published by the New Hampshire Union Leader, The Associated Press said.