After her two-year-old Zoie Gates was strangled by a power window, her mother, Britt Gates of Anthony, Kansas, is now urging vehicle makers to install safer window switches and windows that will automatically stop closing if something is in the way, warning parents that windows can pack up to 80 pounds of force, Associated Press (AP reported).

Gates joined Kids and Cars, the Consumer Federation of America and others on Tuesday to launch a campaign aimed at forcing US car makers to change their windows, AP said.

According to the news agency, Kids and Cars has documented 23 deaths from power windows since 1993 but says the total could be much higher – the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is studying the problem and plans to release preliminary data on deaths this fall, spokesman Rae Tyson reportedly said.

AP said Kids and Cars is filing a petition asking NHTSA to require safer power windows and the group also is writing to car makers and running public service announcements.

The campaign doesn’t target European or Japanese car makers, which install safer switches, AP noted.

Susan Winn of the Consumer Federation told Associated Press that, in April 2003, the European Union began requiring car makers to have safer switches which are flush with the arm rest and require users to pull up if they want the window to go up, rather than the rocker type common in US vehicles.

General Motors, Ford and DaimlerChrysler told AP they have safety features in place, including driver-operated lockout switches on all vehicles that prevent children from using windows in the back seat.

They also said any deaths due to power windows are a tragic reminder that children shouldn’t be left unsupervised around vehicles, AP added.

“We shouldn’t leave children alone in vehicles with the keys. That’s the only way power windows can operate,” GM spokesman Jim Schell told the news agency, adding that GM is putting European-style switches in new models, such as the 2004 Chevrolet Malibu.

Kids and Cars told Associated Press that some vehicles – such as the Ford Focus – have power windows that automatically stop on European models but not on US models. Ford spokeswoman Kristen Kinley told AP that the more advanced power windows are available as an option on US models.

DaimlerChrysler spokeswoman Ann Smith told Associated Press that the company is phasing out the rocking switches or putting them in the centre console where they are more difficult for children to reach.