Garage Vehicle Door Safety

Home Inspector with Mid America Inspection Services, LLC North Dakota 19 & 93

During home inspections, one of the most common defects we find in homes with automatic garage door openers is a maladjusted pressure sensor. The whole purpose of these is to reverse the doors motion to the open position if it strikes an obstruction. In our area, where snows are a common winter occurrence, often we find these purposely maladjusted to allow closure when hitting snow or ice.

For a number of years now an additional safety device, an optical sensor, has been a requirement in new installations. All too often these are improperly installed and defeated entirely.

A three year old girl, in Waldorf, Maryland, was just added to the too long list of reasons these features are important and why they should always be properly adjusted. Her body should have broken the light beam forcing the door to reverse; it didn't. The pressure of striking her body should have forced the door to reverse; it didn't. She was pronounced dead at the local hospital.

As it happens, it is possible she was playing with the door opener, but a child is not expected to make informed, rational decisions, adults have to protect them. Lawmakers may make safety rulings, manufacturers can include safety features, but home owners disregard them at the peril of the innocent.

What can we do?

Make certain that garage doors are properly installed.

Have the safety features operation verified by a garage door professional.

Keep remote controls out of the reach of children.

Locate door opener controls so that the door is completely visible during operation.

Have the door properly maintained by a professional to help reduce chances of injury.

Remember a garage door is the heaviest moving object in a home. Treat it with the respect it deserves.


Comments (12)

Wayne Johnson
Coldwell Banker D'Ann Harper REALTORS® - San Antonio, TX
San Antonio REALTOR, San Antonio Homes For Sale
Marshall-That is a sad story regarding the child crushed by the door. The safety features were designed to prevent accidents like that. So sad. Thanks for the tips.
Apr 06, 2013 04:30 AM
Kathy Streib
Cypress, TX
Home Stager/Redesign

Marshall- senseless and so sad.  There are reasons for certain requirements and these safety features need to be followed. 

Apr 06, 2013 04:44 AM
Marshall Brown
Mid America Inspection Services, LLC - Fargo, ND

In lives that are way too busy we can over look "small" things that can have huge impacts. Really sad.

Here is a link to one place the story is online:

Apr 06, 2013 06:37 AM
William Feela
Realtor, Whispering Pines Realty 651-674-5999 No.

This is important.  I have a friend whose sun got caught under the door that was not adjusted right and had his leg broken.

Apr 06, 2013 10:41 AM
Marshall Brown
Mid America Inspection Services, LLC - Fargo, ND

Sorry to hear about the leg but glad it was not worse. Thanks for the comment.

Apr 06, 2013 01:19 PM
Kwee Huset
Kwee Huset Realty - Venice, FL
Venice Florida Homes For Sale

Hi Marshall, great tips to prevent  an accident from happening.  Sad to know the child was crushed.

Jul 03, 2013 12:34 PM
Marshall Brown
Mid America Inspection Services, LLC - Fargo, ND

Thanks for your comments, Kwee. Hope you have a great Fourth.

Jul 03, 2013 12:38 PM
Ron Marshall
Marshall Enterprises - Saint Michael, MN
Birdhouse Builder Extraordinaire

Thank you for a well-written post on the garage door safety features.  It is sad when a child loses his or her life because an adult decided to over rule the safety features of the opener.  

It breaks my heart.

Jun 18, 2014 01:11 AM
Debb Janes
Nature As Neighbors - Camas, WA
Put My Love of Nature At Work for You

Oh no, that is sad and senseless.  I'm always grateful for the work our home inspectors do to ensure a safe purchase for buyers. Thanks for the reason why you call out the auto gararge door adjustments that are often needed. 

Aug 18, 2014 11:58 PM
Marshall Brown
Mid America Inspection Services, LLC - Fargo, ND

Ron, Debb, Thanks for you comments. A home inspection looks at many things but the most important should always be safety.

Aug 19, 2014 12:22 AM
Rebecca Gaujot, Realtor®
Lewisburg, WV
Lewisburg WV, the go to agent for all real estate

Marshall, thanks for this post and will forward to friends and family.  Very sad to hear about the 3-year old girl being crushed by a garage door.

Sep 03, 2014 12:18 PM
Marshall Brown
Mid America Inspection Services, LLC - Fargo, ND

Rebecca, That's for stopping by.  Totally sad and preventable event.

Sep 03, 2014 10:20 PM