cover icon white background

Unattended Children and Cars 

Trunk Entrapment

Children are innately curious; they like to explore. When left unattended in a vehicle, their exploration can turn deadly. Many vehicles, especially newer models, allow easy access to the trunk though a panel in the back seat. Many vehicles also have a trunk release inside the car that allows for external access. An active child can easily pull the release, get out of the car, enter the trunk and be trapped.

In August 1998, in West Valley City, Utah, five young girls ranging in age from 2 to 6 played in a car owned by one of the girl’s parents. It appears the girls discovered the trunk release next to the driver’s seat and activated it. The girls entered the trunk and closed it. The outside temperature was 100 degrees. The trunk’s temperature rose well above that, and all five girls died. Their bodies were discovered one and a half hours later. The girls’ temperatures ranged from 99 to 107 degrees.38

As of January 1, 2001, auto manufacturers were required to equip all new vehicle trunks with a release latch inside the trunk compartment.39


38 Editorial Note, “Fatal Car Trunk Entrapment Involving Children – United States, 1987-1998,” 47 MMWR Weekly 1019 ( Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , December 4, 1998).

39 66 FR 43121, August 17, 2001, as amended at 67 FR 19523.