Car trunks are off limits to passengers

Did you see the story in the Sentinel Monday about a 7-year-old girl riding in the trunk of a car from Santa Cruz to their home in Salinas? The girl, her father and grandfather were leaving the flea market at the old Skyview Drive-In on Soquel Drive when witnesses saw the child being put in the trunk of a green Honda accord. The witnesses reported the incident as a possible child abduction to 911 dispatchers, promoting every available officer in the county to keep their eyes peeled for the vehicle. The car was found and stopped on Highway 1 at Mar Monte Avenue. Both men were cited for not having the child seat belted inside the vehicle. The grandfather also received a ticket for allowing the child to ride in a portion of the car that’s not intended for transporting passengers, said the California Highway Patrol’s Sam Courtney, who made the car stop and issued the citations. The citations for these crimes carry a base $100 fine – each – for a first offense. That jumps to $200 for a second offense and $250 for each subsequent violation after that. Be aware that court fees and assessments will inflate the fine amount that will appear on their ticket when it arrives in the mail in about 30 days from the date issues. All that taken into consideration means, according to the  Traffic Infraction Fixed Penalty Schedule, each ticket is worth $380. So, the girl's grandfather is looking at $760 in fines for his two tickets. Her father's ticket will be $380. Courtney and responding Sheriff’s deputies weighed the possibility of placing the men under arrest on child endangerment charges but reconsidered, citing that the car had a crawl space created by a movable armrest between the trunk and the car cabin, he said. “The father was in communication with his daughter the whole time,” Courtney said. “She could have crawled into the car whenever she wanted.” But, crawl-space or not, transporting people in the trunk is not OK. Besides facing hefty fines, people who allow children, teens or adults in their trunks need to know it is very dangerous. One the one hand, with no windows or adequate ventilation, it can get pretty hot and stuffy in there, possibly resulting in heatstroke or suffocation, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “Even in cooler temperatures, your vehicles can heat up to dangerous temperatures very quickly,” the agency reported. “An outside temperature in the mid 60s can cause a vehicle’s inside temperature to rise above 110 degrees Fahrenheit. The inside temperature of your car can rise almost 20 degrees Fahrenheit within the first 10 minutes.” In September 2001, the federal government required auto manufacturers to equip new vehicle trunks with a glow in the dark trunk release lever inside the trunk compartment, the agency reported. Drivers and their passengers also should consider that serious injury or death could come to the person illegally riding in the trunk of a car that gets involved in a traffic collision. Many of us have passed by a rear-end crash where the trunk is crushed so much that it winds up pushed behind the vehicle’s rear passenger seat. What if a person was riding there? Web site, www.connectwithkids.com, paints a similar scenario. It told the story of two teenagers who were killed when the car they were in was in a crash. The trunk popped open and they went flying into the road and into the path of oncoming vehicles. The two teens died after they were run over. Stories such as these are among the many reasons behind anti-trunk passenger laws. Apparently, in some other trunk passenger cases, teen drivers were loading their friends into the trunk of their cars in an attempt to circumvent laws that prevent them from transporting other teens, the site said. The practice was called "trunking."
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