In 2002, the government mandated that all vehicles include a standard glow-in-the-dark trunk-release lever, which opens the trunk from the inside in the event of an emergency. Every year, up to 20 people die while trapped in a car trunk, where temperatures can quickly rise to lethal levels. But did you know why they invented it in the first place?
The emergency release handle was invented because a middle-aged woman and her husband narrowly avoided being kidnapped and campaigned for it until it became mandatory.
Janette Fennell’s brutal kidnapping inspired one of the most important safety features in modern vehicles.
Why was the Emergency Release Handle Invented?
The concept of an emergency trunk release which is now standard equipment even in vehicles with cargo compartments small enough to challenge even the most skilled contortionists appears to be self-evident. Nonetheless, its acceptance today is the result of a long lobbying effort to get both automakers and federal regulators to take the dangers posed by trunk traps seriously, as is the case with so many self-evident safety features.
The story behind the emergency trunk release, on the other hand, is one of the guns, abduction, and a missing child, unlike any other piece of modern safety equipment. It’s a play that sparked a movement and instilled a passion in a bureaucracy more accustomed to dealing with cold, hard statistics.
Janette Fennell is the woman most responsible for saving hundreds of lives each year as a result of her terrifying ordeal and unwavering determination to keep it from happening to anyone else. (Source: Inside Hook)
When was the Emergency Release Invented?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was petitioned in 1984 about the need for a release switch to be incorporated into passenger car trunks, stating that persons such as alarm and stereo installers, mechanics, playful children, pranksters, and crime victims may be trapped in the trunk. The petitioner also believed an elderly person might fall into the trunk and become entrapped. At the time, the agency said such entrapments were highly unlikely.
Between 1984 and 1998, the agency received a total of two dozen more requests for action. NHTSA asked the National Safe Kids Campaign to form a task force to investigate the matter in 1998 no doubt prompted by the tragic deaths of 11 children in three separate incidents within three weeks of each other in July and August of that year. Children dying in hot trunks was not a new phenomenon, but it was one that the auto industry could address. (Source: Driving)
Where Can You Find the Emergency Release Handle?
To open the trunk, you need to press the trunk release lever to the left of the driver’s seat. To prevent someone from opening the trunk, use your master key to lock the trunk release lever. Give them your valet key if they need to lock or unlock the doors or drive your car. (Source: Honda)
We have not found a single case of a person dying in a trunk since those releases were implemented. There have been numerous reports of people being put in the trunk of a car by a thief and driven to an ATM. However, they discovered the release and jumped out.Janette Fennell, Founder, and President of Kids and Cars