Why don't car windows have a safety feedback mechanism? (gross picture warning)

Jock Elliott

Hall of Famer
Jan 3, 2012
Troy, NY
As you might know, electric garage door openers have a fail-safe feedback mechanism that causes the door to reverse direction if it is closing and something is in the way. To my knowledge, electric car windows do not . . . and herein lies a tale.

On July 19, 2020, at around 3 pm, my wife and I were leaving the parking lot of a diner. It was very hot (in the 90s, if I recall correctly), my wife was driving, and the car windows were down about 4 inches. I stuck my hand out the passenger’s window to see if the air felt cooler outside the car than in. My wife, watching the road and detecting that the air conditioner was beginning to produce cold air, hit the switches to run the windows up.

The back of my right hand (my dominant hand) was hit by the ascending glass of the car window. Instinctively, I yanked my hand out of the window. I saw small red mark on the back of my hand. My wife was very upset and wanted to know if I was okay. I think I said something like, “I’ll probably be sore tomorrow, but it’s no big deal.”

Within five minutes, my hand began to blow up like a balloon. My wife pulled into a convenience store where a kind young man dashed into the back, put some ice in a plastic bag, and gave it to me. The ice, I’m sure helped, but my hand – thanks to the blood thinners I take – was swelling with blood. By 7 pm, it seemed wise to visit urgent care. X-rays revealed no fracture. An ace bandage was applied, and I was advised to keep icing the hand, to take the ring off my right hand, and to visit my regular doctor if there was no improvement in a couple of days. There wasn’t.

Two days later, I visit my regular doc, and he says there isn’t really a great deal he can do; he advises me to keep icing the hand. By July 24, my hand looks like a gross caricature of a hand; the back of the hand, the palm, and the fingers are all swollen. There is an area of “extra swelling” – like a volcanic cone – on the back of my hand. See pictures below.








Six days after the accident, the entire back of the hand is very red, very angry-looking, and painful. There are two sensations. The skin, because of the stretching, often feels like it is on fire. Running the back of the hand under cool water helps; oddly, the icing not so much. The other sensation deep in the hand is that of being stabbed with an icicle . . . a cold pain probably from a deep bruise of bones, tendons, etc. It hurts to do almost anything: turn a door knob or a water faucet, move the shift lever on the car. I can’t make a fist and gripping a pen is impossible. The back of the hand feels like it has been immobilized with fiberglass strapping tape, but I can wiggle my fingers.

So I go see OrthoNY urgent care. They put me on a course of antibiotics. Almost all of the angry redness disappears within a week. My wife suggests we soothe the skin on the back of the hand with vitamin E oil. She slathers the back of the hand with it, and we slide a stretchy plastic glove (like a surgical glove) over it. The next morning, not only is the skin better, but the Big Bump has reduced in size! We theorize that the compression of the elastic glove is helping to force the fluid out of the bump. We are continuing the Vit E and glove treatment at night as of this writing.

As of Aug. 14, 2020, things are much improved. Most of the swelling has gone but the Big Bump, now much reduced in size, remains. I’m back to playing guitar (one of my buddies offers that the reason this happened is that I play Classic Gas in the house one too many times!). Handwriting is difficult, but typing is not. Parts of the back of the hand still feel stiff, and a section of the skin is numb. Follow up with hand doctors to come. In all, I am grateful that most of my hand function has returned.

Still, the question remains: why don’t car electric windows have a safety feedback mechanism?

Cheers, Jock
 

Richard

All-Pro
Feb 1, 2013
Marlow, UK
That looks nasty. I wish you well and I'm pleased that I had my breakfast some time back.

Many years ago my company car was up for replacement, and the new one came with power windows. It was the first time I'd had that feature in a car. On my lunch break I was sitting in the car, familiarising myself with the controls, setting the radio stations and suchlike when a colleague joined me. The power windows were noticed, and we had a conversation which went something like this:

Colleague: Oh, electric windows
Me: Yeah, good aren't they? [runs the windows up and down a few times]
Colleague: What happens if something gets caught in the gap?
Me: I think they sense that and stop automatically
Colleague: Let's try it - stick your arm out of the window and close it

At this point I had a rare moment of good sense, and decided that I would with try with something else first. I was holding the owner's manual for the car at the time, and I decided that would do. It was paperback book, about half an inch thick. I held the manual at the top of the open window, pressed the Up switch and watched the window close on it.

As the glass met the manual there was the noise of a straining electrical motor, and the cabin lights dimmed. My colleague and I looked at each other and I pressed the Down switch and released the manual. It now had a big notch in it, as if someone had tried to chop it in half with a pair of garden shears. That notch was still embarrassingly apparent when the car went back to the lease company three years later.

So much for the safety mechanism, and I see that things have not improved in the intervening 30 years.

-R
 

mike3996

Hall of Famer
Apr 2, 2018
Finland
Surprising stuff! But perhaps there's no real way to make these windows sense obstacles. At least I'd wonder how poorly they'd work in cold climates where chunks of ice (as the most prominent example) often stick to glass and would cause several false stops.

Good to hear you're better.
 

Biro

Hall of Famer
Aug 7, 2011
Jersey Shore
Steve
A few things, Jock.

First, I'm really glad that you're finally on the mend. But two months later? It seems to me some doctor could have and should have prescribed early on all of the things that were ultimately done. Which leads me to...

Second, it is amazing to me that, in 2020, doctors know so much but know so little. It seems that unless it's a text book case of anything, most are mystified.

Third, your story about the power window sounds like something out of Ralph Nader's "Unsafe at Any Speed" from the mid-1960's. One would think the auto industry had figured this out by now. Or maybe they have - but just haven't been sued yet.
 

john m flores

All-Pro
Aug 13, 2012
Oh my, that looks terrible, Jock. Glad it's on the mend. Somewhere in my distant memory I recall a car maker having windows with just the kind of safety mechanism that you're talking about. Nissan maybe? Or perhaps Mercedes.
 

Jock Elliott

Hall of Famer
Jan 3, 2012
Troy, NY
A few things, Jock.

First, I'm really glad that you're finally on the mend. But two months later? It seems to me some doctor could have and should have prescribed early on all of the things that were ultimately done. Which leads me to...

Second, it is amazing to me that, in 2020, doctors know so much but know so little. It seems that unless it's a text book case of anything, most are mystified.

Third, your story about the power window sounds like something out of Ralph Nader's "Unsafe at Any Speed" from the mid-1960's. One would think the auto industry had figured this out by now. Or maybe they have - but just haven't been sued yet.
Not two months; coming up on four weeks this Sunday.

Most of it has been pretty straight-forward. However, my family doc, two days after the event, looked at the Big Bump and said, "I'm not sure what's going to happen with that . . . "

Now, almost four weeks into the mission, I'm waiting to see. But function is returning, and I am grateful for that.

Cheers, Jock
 

Jock Elliott

Hall of Famer
Jan 3, 2012
Troy, NY
That looks nasty. I wish you well and I'm pleased that I had my breakfast some time back.

Many years ago my company car was up for replacement, and the new one came with power windows. It was the first time I'd had that feature in a car. On my lunch break I was sitting in the car, familiarising myself with the controls, setting the radio stations and suchlike when a colleague joined me. The power windows were noticed, and we had a conversation which went something like this:

Colleague: Oh, electric windows
Me: Yeah, good aren't they? [runs the windows up and down a few times]
Colleague: What happens if something gets caught in the gap?
Me: I think they sense that and stop automatically
Colleague: Let's try it - stick your arm out of the window and close it

At this point I had a rare moment of good sense, and decided that I would with try with something else first. I was holding the owner's manual for the car at the time, and I decided that would do. It was paperback book, about half an inch thick. I held the manual at the top of the open window, pressed the Up switch and watched the window close on it.

As the glass met the manual there was the noise of a straining electrical motor, and the cabin lights dimmed. My colleague and I looked at each other and I pressed the Down switch and released the manual. It now had a big notch in it, as if someone had tried to chop it in half with a pair of garden shears. That notch was still embarrassingly apparent when the car went back to the lease company three years later.

So much for the safety mechanism, and I see that things have not improved in the intervening 30 years.

-R
That is a chilling account, but thanks for sharing. My wife and I now have a new policy: whatever side of the car I am on, I am in charge of the window on that side. She is still mortified by what happened.

Cheers, Jock
 

Richard

All-Pro
Feb 1, 2013
Marlow, UK
These things happen, and it takes a nasty experience to really highlight the danger ...

Years ago I was heading for a walk in the country with a friend of mine, and we were taking my family's dog. I was driving, and my friend was in the passenger seat with the dog sitting up on his lap. The windows were half-open for ventilation. We arrived at the car park and I switched off and looked across at friend and dog - everyone was fine. I needed to secure the car, and the all the window switches in that car were located on the driver's door. So I turned away from my passengers and pressed the switch to close the window on their side. There was a sudden yelp of pain/alarm from the dog, who had chosen that moment to stick her nose out of the window.

It was a horrible moment. I thought she could be badly injured, with her muzzle caught in the closing window like that.

A short time later all was apparently well, but you can imagine the shock and the remorse in the car. How the hell did that happen, and whose fault was it? (mine I suppose, for operating the switch without turning to see that the window on the other side of the car was clear) (but my friend was sort of in charge of the dog).

So tell your wife not to beat herself up too much, as accidents will happen. But be more careful next time ;)

-R
 

drd1135

Zen Snapshooter
Jul 13, 2011
Lexington, VA
Steve
I was curious and went outside to test my 2014 Subaru. The driver side window has a button that will "click" if you press it down all the way and will completely open the window without holding the button. My previous Subaru did this as well but wouldn't raise it with a click. This one will, so I've always assumed it had some way to stop the window if something was in the way. I tried it with a pen just now. It did stop, although the apparent pressure needed is not something I would casually try with my finger.
 

gryphon1911

All-Pro
Feb 6, 2015
Central Ohio, USA
Andrew
Ouchie! man that looks horrible!

I do know that some cars have that window safety feature. My wife's 2008 Toyota RAV4 has it. If it detects too much resistance in trying to close the window, it will automatically roll it back down. I like that it is there, but I also understand why they would not....if you are trying to roll your window up to get away from danger, and it automatically rolls down...yikes!
 

Mr_Flibble

Top Veteran
Aug 16, 2013
The Lowlands
Rick
Ouch!

These reminds me of some of the nasty bruises my dad gets these days. He's on bloodthinners as well, for his heart.
Wishing you a more speedy and full recovery, and by the sound of it you are already well on the way.
 

Seamus3900

Regular
Sep 21, 2013
Wow that looks terrible, I am also glad you are feeling better.

I went out to test my 2016 Subaru Forester and seems like it also has a sensor to stop it shutting on someone/something at least in the front windows, I did not check the back ones since we never use them and only have the dogs on the back and the windows and doors are always locked via the console so they cannot open them by mistake.

I will try my wives Mazda CX-3 when she gets back from work as I am now interested to see if hers has the same or not.
 

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