Effectiveness of Manual Trunk Release Handles 2003-01-0499
Since 1970 in the United States, nearly 1,000 trunk entrapments have been reported, resulting in more than 250 deaths. Most entrapments and fatalities therefrom involve criminal activity (such as carjackings and kidnappings). Many, however, involve children accidentally trapped in car trunk compartments. During the summer of 1998 alone, 11 children died in three separate incidents through being trapped accidentally in the trunk of a car. In response, FMVSS No: 401 now requires that all passenger cars manufactured after September 1, 2001 be equipped with a release mechanism inside the trunk compartment that unlatches the trunk lid. This paper describes a methodology for evaluation of the effectiveness of manual trunk release handles, and in particular, reports on the ability of young children to manipulate various release handles. Children (three or four years of age) were presented with three types of trunk release handle. Two handles were phosphorescent and light emitting diodes lighted the third. Children were presented with the three handles in random order mounted in a simulated car trunk, and their ability and response time to complete a simulated trunk unlatching was measured. Success rates and response times were analyzed and reported by handle type and by age. Results indicated that older children more successfully and quickly operate the handles presented. The failure rate among three-year olds was quite high. In addition, no one handle elicited faster responses than others.