Two young boys, ages two and four, died last month in Indiana after being trapped in the trunk of their family’s 2000 Chevy Malibu. It isn’t known how the boys got in the trunk, but KidsAndCars.org, a national child safety organization, has again called on General Motors Corp. to recall all vehicles with trunks from model years 2000 and 2001, and retrofit them with internal trunk releases. The advocacy group made a similar appeal in 2009 when an Arkansas boy, age five, and his sister, age four, died in the same model vehicle in 2009 when they were trapped in the trunk of a 2000 Malibu. Autopsies show that the recent deaths in Indiana were a result of hyperthermia, caused by the trunk’s exceedingly hot temperatures.
A recent study conducted by KidsandCars found that 46 children have died in unintentional trunk entrapments since 1992. The study noted that 21 of the 46 deaths were in GM vehicles. After the Arkansas deaths, the organization called on GM, the maker of the Chevy Malibu, to recall its 2000-2001 vehicles. In light of last week’s deaths, it again urged GM to take action in an effort to prevent additional tragedies. As noted in a 1979 internal report issued by GM in response to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which was provided to ABC News, the cost of installing an internal trunk release would have been three cents per car.
GM installed the device in its vehicles more than 20 years later after passage of legislation requiring them on cars produced after 2001. GM had previously said it would “equip most of its four-door family cars with an infrared sensing device that automatically unlocks the trunk if anyone is trapped inside.” GM, after several studies, announced that it would ” use the infrared technology to create an automatic system.” But that technology was never made available to consumers.
GM also promised that an “automatic trunk-opening feature would be standard on the Chevrolet Impala” beginning in 2000 and would be phased in on most of GM’s four-door cars by 2002. But GM never installed that feature. Ultimately, GM elected to implement an interior release handle in accordance with the NHTSA Standard. While GM offered retrofit kits, at a $50 cost to the consumer, in 1999, it didn’t begin automatically installing the devices in vehicles until the 2002 car models. By comparison, Ford Motor Co. began to automatically phase in internal trunk releases in its cars beginning in 1999, completing close to the entire process by February 2000.
Although cars produced after 2001 are required to have an internal trunk release, many cars before that date are not equipped with the potentially lifesaving tool. KidsandCars recommends a $9.99 home-installed device called Easy Out Trunk Release Kit that glows in the dark so that anyone trapped inside can easily locate the release lever. In addition to installing internal trunk release kits, KidsAndCars offers these safety tips to keep children safe around vehicles:
• Keep vehicles locked at all times, even in the garage or driveway;
• Keys and remote openers should never be left within reach of children;
• When a child is missing, check vehicles and car trunks immediately;
• Install an after-market, trunk-release mechanism;
• Teach children that trunks are only used to transport cargo and are not safe places to play;
• Never leave children alone in or around cars, not even for a minute.
Hopefully, NHTSA and General Motors will take all actions necessary to eliminate this safety hazard once and for all.
Source: Associated Press
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