Hide-and-seek was one of my favorite games when I was a kid.
Every family party, while the adults were in the dining room chattering away, my cousins and I would organize a massive game of hide-and-seek. It was a blast. We loved exploring my aunt’s house and hiding in all the little nooks and crannies we could find. There was one place, however, that we knew not to hide: in the car trunk.
You might think the most dangerous parts of the car are the wheels or the engine, but I’d argue that it’s the trunk. A car trunk is small and easily accessible—making it the perfect trap for a curious kid. Once a child climbs into the trunk and closes the lid, it’s difficult for them to escape. Entrapment isn’t the only danger the trunk presents, however: temperatures in the trunk can reach up to 172 degrees Fahrenheit. Couple that with a lack of renewable oxygen, and playing in the boot is a recipe for disaster.
Thankfully, safety features make trunk-related accidents easily avoidable—just teach your kids how to open the car trunk from inside. Here are seven ways kids can escape when they’re trapped in the trunk.
How to Open the Car Trunk from Inside
1. Use the Trunk Release Switch
Thanks to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 401, every car built since September 1, 2001 must “be equipped with a release latch inside the trunk compartment.” When pulled, these release latches pop open the trunk and allow trapped occupants to escape with ease. The trunk release switch is a big lifesaver. According to the non-profit organization Kids and Cars, “there has not been one documented fatality in the trunk of a vehicle with the glow-in-the-dark internal release mechanism required by law.”
Do a quick scan of your car’s trunk to locate the trunk release. They’re usually located near the center latch. Once you’ve found it, hold a masterclass and show your kids where it is and how to use it. Don’t worry if it’s a little hidden: this latch typically glows-in-the-dark, so kids should have no problem finding it without a flashlight or phone light.
2. Push Out the Brake Lights
If your child gets trapped in a trunk without a release switch, pushing out the car’s brake lights is the next best way to escape.
Here’s how to do it: First, pry off the panel that separates the lights from the trunk. Then, rip out the wires that connect the lights to the car. Finally, give a few strong kicks to the brake light until it falls out the back of the car. Kids with longer arms might be able to reach for the trunk handle and pull it open, otherwise they can stick out an arm or leg to signal passersby for help.
3. Squeeze Out Through the Back Seat
While some trunks are completely separate from the rest of the car, others can be accessed via the back seat. If your child is stuck in the trunk of a car like this, it’s easy for them to escape: all they need to do is push down the seat. Show them how to pull the lever on the seatback to lower the chair and crawl out the front to freedom.
4. Pull the Driver’s Side Trunk Release Cable
In addition to the glow-in-the-dark lever that we talked about earlier, most cars feature a trunk release lever near the driver’s door that occupants can use to pop open the trunk. If a trapped child can’t reach the driver’s door, however, they don’t need to despair. This lever is connected to the back of the car by a small cable which opens the trunk when pulled.
According to Outdoor Life, “this cable is usually along the [trunk] floor on the driver’s side in most makes and models of cars, though it could also be on the passenger side.” To find the cable, pull up the carpet on the floor of the trunk and feel around. Once your child has found this cable, they should give it a hefty tug towards the front of the car. This will activate the trunk release and let them escape.
5. Use the Car Jack
If your car is anything like mine, it has a secret compartment in the bottom of the trunk that contains the spare tire, some tools, and—you guessed it—a car jack. If your child can get to this jack, they can use it to pry open the trunk lid and escape.
Using a car jack is fairly simple and straightforward, so your kids should have no trouble mastering the basics. Take an afternoon to show them how to use this tool. In addition to giving them an escape tool, knowing how to operate a car jack will also help your kids if they ever need to change a tire or get under their car. Sounds pretty handy to me!
6. Attract Attention
If a trapped child is unable to escape from the trunk on their own, a passerby can likely help. To attract attention (and a potential savior) kids should make as much noise as they can. Kicking the trunk lid, shaking the car, and screaming out loud will likely alert anyone in the vicinity that someone is trapped in the trunk. This person can then unlock the car or call for help.
7. Call Emergency Services
If your child is stuck in the trunk, their cell phone could save their life. One call to the police is all it takes for emergency services to send someone to pry open the trunk and get your child to safety.
Remind your children to keep their cell phones on and ready to use in case of an emergency. Teach them how to call 911 and other emergency hotlines, but remind them that these phone numbers are only for emergencies. If your kiddo has a cell phone from Troomi Wireless, emergency phone numbers are already included in their contacts, so they should have no trouble contacting the police for help.
Keep Your Kids Safe Near the Car
Cars help our families get around safely and securely—but they’re not the place to play. Even though it looks like the perfect hide-and-seek spot, kids should steer clear of the trunk. Getting locked in the trunk is extremely dangerous due to high temperatures and a lack of renewable oxygen.
Thankfully, there are many ways that kids and teens can escape from a locked trunk. Show them how to open the car trunk from inside by using the emergency trunk release switch, pushing out the brake lights, or prying it open with a car jack. With these skills under their belt, they’ll find their way to freedom in no time.