Lawmakers in Washington have passed a comprehensive consumer-safety bill that could force auto makers to engineer safer power windows and technology to help prevent drivers from backing over children and other pedestrians.

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce recently voted unanimously in favor of the bill, which also has passed the full House. Officials expect Senate action on the legislation soon after business resumes next year.

The bill includes the bipartisan “Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act,” which seeks to protect children in and around vehicles. Similar to a bill introduced by Sens. John E. Sununu (R-NH) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and passed by the Senate earlier this year, it directs the National Highway Traffic Safety Admin. to enact several new safety rules.

“The bill’s responsible, affordable steps will help save lives,” Sununu says in a statement.

According to NHTSA, victims killed in “non-crash events” typically are under 4 years of age. Since 1999, more than 1,000 children have been killed in such events, with 46% of deaths caused by the victim being backed over by a vehicle. Another 24% of deaths were blamed on hyperthermia; 13% from a child placing the vehicle in motion; and 3% from strangulation by a power accessory, such as a window.

The Alliance for Automobile Manufacturers, a lobbyist for major auto makers such as General Motors Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp., endorsed the bill.

“We strongly support this legislation and commend the (House) committee for reporting out this important safety act,” AAM President and CEO Dave McCurdy says in a statement. “We also urge Congress to send it to the president before this session ends.

“Today’s autos have more safety features than ever before, including electronic stability control, side airbags, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning systems and much more,” he says. “However, no safety feature is more important than parents or caregivers. A child should never be left unattended inside or around an automobile.”

Specifically, the bill would require NHTSA to determine whether power window anti-strangulation mechanisms, known as auto-reverse, would be reasonable, practical and appropriate. Should NHTSA find a standard unnecessary, it must provide evidence to Congress.

NHTSA must also draft a standard that would require auto makers to add technology – such as more mirrors, sensor devices or cameras – to expand the driver’s rearward field of view and reduce death and injury from backing incidents, particularly incidents involving small children and the disabled. That standard would arrive 36 months after the president signs the bill.

Most auto makers include both auto-reverse for power windows and rear-backing assistance at least as optional equipment on some models. Ford Motor Co., for instance, offers what it calls “bounce-back” on power windows on all Lincoln models and most Ford-brand vehicles. The auto maker also offers a rear-backing camera system on its Ford F-150 pickup truck.

Chrysler LLC offers a camera system called “ParkView” on its Town & Country and Dodge Caravan minivans to help drivers avoid objects in the rearward path. GM makes a similar system available on its fullsize SUVs. The ’08 Nissan Infinity EX cross/utility vehicle takes the concept one step further with a cabin monitor that displays a simulated overhead view of the vehicle at speeds under 10 mph (16 km/h).

The legislation orders a phase-in period of four years for the new rules. Other provisions call for auto makers to equip all vehicles sold in the U.S. as of Sept. 1, 2010, with brakeshift interlocks that would prevent children from shifting an automobile out of park. Auto makers voluntarily signed an agreement to begin implementation of that safety feature in 2006.

Additionally, the bill orders NHTSA to develop and make available to the public a database of injuries and deaths in non-traffic, non-crash events involving motor vehicles.

The legislation is named after Cameron Gulbransen, a 2-year-old boy killed in 2002 when his father accidentally backed over him with the family’s SUV.