More than ten years after the federal government required emergency interior trunk releases in new vehicles, older cars still pose a risk to curious children and lead to tragic deaths. According to Safe Kids Wordwide, from 2005 to 2009, trunk entrapment resulted in the death of 16 children in the United States and on average, every ten days a child dies from heatstroke in a vehicle.
“Obviously the most important thing is to inform them that trunks are not to play in or to be around in – they’re for cargo only. And if you start instilling that at a very young age, it’s the best way to prevent that from ever happening,” said deputy chief Scott Burkhart with prevention and EMS for Eau Claire Fire & Rescue.
He said prevention is key, especially for kids who are younger.
“Make sure that you keep the keys and the remote entry devices out of their reach. Keep them locked away, keep them up high so they cannot get to them,” said Burkhart.
One father we spoke to said he makes sure his son doesn’t get a hold of the car keys.
“I kind of fibbed to my son and I hide them and I also tell him if you play with the keys he’s going to get owwies because he’s not old enough to drive yet,” said Perry Hagler of Eau Claire. “Whenever we get out of the car, we lock them up. She put them in her purse and they know not to go through mama’s purse.”
And that’s what Safe Kids Worldwide recommends. Make sure to lock your vehicle, including doors and trunk, when you’re not using it. Keep keys and remote entry fobs out of children’s sight and reach.
“If a child ends up missing around the car, one thing to check would be the trunk right away. Also as your children mature and start to understand a little more, show them that safety feature. All cars built after the model 2002 are equipped with an emergency internal release for the trunk,” said Burkhart.
We went over to Prestige Auto in Eau Claire to check out some of the emergency releases in newer cars. They are glow in the dark and can be used from the inside of the trunk. You can either push the button or pull it depending on the make of the car. It’s typically located near the trunk latch. Some older cars have a cord, button or toggle switch or even a handle that does not glow in the dark.
Prestige Auto also showed us another feature – a button that allows you to push down a fold-down seat which is located inside the trunk of the car has well.
Burkhart said that’s also something to keep an eye on for preventative measures. He said to keep rear fold-down seats closed to help prevent kids from climbing into the trunk from inside your car.
And on hot summer days, he said knowing how to get out and where your kids are could the difference between life or death.
“Especially out in the sun like this, the trunk area heats up real quickly and time is very limited,” said Burkhart.
Safe Kids Worldwide said if your child goes missing, get help and check swimming pools, vehicles and trunks. If your child is locked in a car, get him or her out as quickly as possible and dial 911 immediately. Emergency personnel are trained to evaluate and check for signs of heatstroke.