May 28, 2022

Odd Symbol

~ by Chris #16 Demaras ~

While cleaning out the trunk of the WRX, Daniel and I stumbled across an odd looking symbol inside the decklid. This was not an ISO standardized graphic.

The symbol looks like it was designed by a primary school kid, and the plastic is all yellowed. But clearly, this lever allows you to open the trunk from the inside. I don’t remember seeing this symbol on the Mini Cooper, Forester, old WRX, older Impreza or any other cars in the family fleet.

I looked it up and learned that since 2001 North American sold cars were legally required to have glow-in-the-dark, emergency trunk releases handles. The story behind this safety feature is scary and bizarre.

Back in 1995, a couple in southern California was kidnapped at gunpoint, robbed and locked in the trunk of their car. The bad guys drove the car to a park in San Francisco where the car was abandoned and the couple was left for dead. Miraculously, the couple escaped by pulling up the carpet in the trunk, locating the remote trunk release cable and freeing themselves.

After her ordeal, Janette Fennell was angry that she could have died that day … because they couldn’t get out of the trunk! She did her research and found that trunk entrapment was a serious problem. Many children had accidentally been locked in the trunks of cars, with terrible consequences. Janette’s solution was a glow-in-the-dark emergency trunk release handle installed inside the trunk.

It took Janette years of effort, lobbying the powerful US auto industry, to make the safety device mandatory. At the 1999 Detroit auto show she demonstrated the device at the by climbing into the trunk of a Ford to show how it worked. That’s commitment! Her ( organization’s efforts were successful, and as of September 1, 2001, all cars for sale in North America were required to have the emergency handle.

Several manufacturers were early adopters of the device. The odd drawing inside the Subaru’s trunk was an example of the device being installed before standardized handles and symbols were established. I think the story of Janette Fennell reached Fuji Heavy Industries in Japan…because that image of the person escaping the trunk and running to safety….that’s her. That’s Janette.

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