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U.S. Transportation Secretary Slater Announces Proposal to Require Internal Trunk Releases on Cars

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  Rodney E. Slater

U.S. Transportation Secretary Slater Announces Proposal to Require Internal Trunk Releases on Cars

December 15, 1999

NHTSA 61-99
Wednesday, December 15, 1999
NHTSA, Tim Hurd, (202) 366-9550

U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater today announced a proposed requirement that all vehicles with trunks have a release inside to allow children or adults to escape. The requirement would be effective beginning Jan. 1, 2001.

"This proposal would help save the lives of children who get trapped in a car trunk - thus averting tragedies and improving safety, which is President Clinton's and Vice President Gore's highest transportation priority," Secretary Slater said. " Especially during the summer, children all too frequently die after being trapped in a trunk when there is no means of escape - this rulemaking is intended to provide them a means of escape."

In 1998, 11 children died from exposure to heat after being inadvertently trapped in car trunks. A study released that year by the Centers for Disease Control documents a total of 19 cases of children ages 6 and under who died in car trunks between 1987 and 1998.

Trunk entrapment involves both children trapped in trunks - often during play, pranks or other innocent circumstances - and adults trapped in trunks - generally as a result of criminal actions.

"This proposal will give children and others a chance to get out of the trunk alive," said NHTSA Acting Administrator Rosalyn G. Millman.

NHTSA's proposal adopts the approach recommended by an expert panel NHTSA established in November 1998. The Expert Panel on Trunk Entrapment, chaired by Dr. Heather Paul of the Safe Kids Campaign, included experts from child psychology and behavior, safety advocacy, automotive engineering, vehicle manufacturing, law enforcement, the medical community and other groups. The panel issued a series of recommendations to NHTSA in June 1999 and earned praise from Secretary Rodney Slater for its efforts.

The proposal would establish a new Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 401, Internal Trunk Release. Comments on the proposal, which is posted today at the Federal Register, should be submitted in 60 days. Comments may be submitted in writing to Docket Management, Docket No. NHTSA 99-5063 Notice 1, Room PL-401, 400 Seventh St, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20590 or electronically to the department's electronic docket management system on the Internet at http://www.nhtsa.gov/exit.cfm?link=http://dms.dot.gov (click on submit and follow subsequent instructions).


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