[Federal Register Volume 64, Number 242 (Friday, December 17, 1999)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 70672-70678]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 99-32752]



National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

49 CFR Part 571

[Docket No. NHTSA 99-5063; Notice 1]
RIN 2127-AH 83

Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Interior Trunk Releases

AGENCY: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), DOT.

ACTION: Notice of proposed rulemaking.


SUMMARY: We are proposing to require that all new vehicles with trunks 
come equipped with a release latch inside the trunk compartment 
beginning January 1, 2001. During the summer of 1998, eleven children 
died when they inadvertently trapped themselves in the trunk of a car. 
This proposal is intended to give children and others who find 
themselves trapped inside a car trunk a chance to get out of the trunk 

DATES: You should submit your comments early enough to ensure that 
Docket Management receives them not later than February 15, 2000.

ADDRESSES: You should mention the docket number of this document in 
your comments and submit your comments in writing to: Docket 
Management, Room PL-401, 400 Seventh Street, SW Washington, DC 20590. 
You may call Docket Management at 202-366-9324. You may visit the 
Docket from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Friday.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Stephen R. Kratzke, Director, Office 
of Crash Avoidance Standards, NHTSA, 400 Seventh Street, SW, Washington 
DC 20590. Mr. Kratzke's telephone number is (202) 366-4931 and his 
facsimile number is (202) 366-4329.


Previous Agency Looks at Trunk Entrapment

    The issue of motor vehicle trunk entrapment was initially raised in 
May of 1984 when NHTSA was petitioned by Mr. William Proehl to require 
that every new car be equipped with a trunk release lever that can be 
easily operated from inside a vehicle's trunk. The petitioner listed 
various possible circumstances of accidental and intentional entrapment 
in the trunk of a vehicle. The petitioner stated that persons such as 
alarm and stereo installers, mechanics, playful children, pranksters, 
and crime victims may be trapped in the trunk. The petitioner also 
believed that an elderly person might fall into the trunk and thereby 
become entrapped. Mr. Proehl asked NHTSA to require an inside trunk 
release on all new cars to facilitate the release of these victims.
    After reviewing the petition and the available information in this 
area, NHTSA published a notice of denial for rulemaking which concluded 
that the likelihood of an internal trunk lever ever being used was 
remote (49 FR 47277; December 3, 1984). NHTSA stated in 1984 that it 
was not aware of any data indicating that there is much likelihood of 
occurrence of unintentional entrapment in a vehicle's trunk. NHTSA's 
rationale for its conclusion stated that trunk lids are spring-loaded 
in the open position and, therefore, not likely to close by themselves 
with someone inside. Because the lids are spring loaded, it is 
difficult to close the trunk from any position except standing behind 
the vehicle and pushing down on the outer surface of the trunk lid. 
From that position, a person has a full view of the trunk interior. The 
agency stated that it believed it would be extremely unlikely that a 
person would accidentally close the lid with someone inside. Concerning 
an elderly person falling into the trunk, the petitioner suggested that 
entrapment could occur if snow on the trunk closed

[[Page 70673]]

the lid when the person fell. It was unclear to NHTSA how the trunk 
would entrap the person in this circumstance, since it is unlikely that 
the individual would fall in such a way that more than his or her upper 
torso is inside the trunk. Again, in this situation, NHTSA stated its 
belief that an internal trunk release lever would not likely need to be 
    The 1984 notice stated that NHTSA was aware that victims of crime 
or pranks are, on occasion, purposely locked in the trunk of a vehicle. 
However, the petitioner did not provide any data supporting the 
benefits of an internal release mechanism in these circumstances. The 
agency did not and still does not know, for example, how often a victim 
of a crime or prank who is purposely locked in a vehicle's trunk might 
also be secured so that an internal release mechanism could not be 
    Between May 1984 and July 1998, NHTSA received approximately two 
dozen letters expressing concern about trunk entrapments. In no case 
was data provided to the agency about the size of this safety problem.

Events of the Summer of 1998

    In June 1998, the U.S. Congress directed NHTSA to conduct a study 
of the benefits to the public of a regulation to require the 
installation in a motor vehicle of an interior device to release the 
trunk lid. NHTSA was required to submit a report on the results of the 
study to Congress by December 1999. Additionally, during a three-week 
period between July and August of 1998, eleven children died in three 
separate incidents when they locked themselves in the trunk of an 
automobile. These events obliged NHTSA to take another look at the 
problem of trunk entrapments.

The Work of the Expert Panel on Trunk Entrapment

    In September 1998, NHTSA began to gather all available information 
on the issue of trunk entrapments, which is not a well defined problem. 
In general, it appears that the victims of trunk entrapment include two 
distinct categories: people who are intentionally locked in a motor 
vehicle trunk by criminals and people, nearly always children, who 
inadvertently lock themselves in the trunk. The problem solution 
requires some understanding of criminal and child behavior, the human 
factors problem of designing a mechanism that children and others will 
be able to operate quickly when frightened and in the dark, and other 
issues including location and possible power requirements. Considering 
the broad array of issues, NHTSA decided that instead of having the 
government develop a solution on its own, a more effective way of 
addressing and understanding the issue would be to bring business, 
government and civic leaders, medical and engineering researchers and a 
broad coalition of concerned organizations together to work to prevent 
trunk entrapments. To accomplish this, NHTSA decided to convene an 
independent panel of experts.
    In November 1998, NHTSA asked Ms. Heather Paul of the National Safe 
Kids Campaign to chair an Expert Panel for the purpose of developing 
recommendations and strategies by mid-1999 for addressing the issue of 
deaths and injuries resulting from motor vehicle trunk entrapment. The 
Expert Panel on Trunk Entrapment consisted of representatives from 
various industries, including vehicle manufacturers, law enforcement 
groups, experts in child psychology and behavior, child safety 
advocates, the medical community, other Federal government agencies, 
and other interested parties.
    This Expert Panel met three times in Washington, DC, in January, 
March, and May 1999. At the first meeting, NHTSA presented an overview 
of the available data on the size of the safety problem. NHTSA's report 
is available in the public docket in both its original and revised form 
(Docket No. NHTSA 1999-5063-2 and 5063-3, respectively). The report 
concluded that existing Federal databases had very little information 
on the problem of trunk entrapment, and described our search through 
data collected by this agency, as well as the Consumer Product Safety 
Commission, the National Center for Health Statistics, and the Federal 
Bureau of Investigation. The available data indicated there have been 
21 deaths in 11 incidents of inadvertent trunk entrapment from 1987 to 
    Also at the first meeting, Janette Fennell of Trunk Releases 
Urgently Needed Coalition (TRUNC), a non-profit group dedicated to 
improving trunk safety, made a presentation suggesting that trunk 
entrapments happen with greater regularity than is generally believed. 
Ms. Fennell said that, as of January 1999, she had gathered anecdotal 
evidence and media reports of more than 900 cases of trunk entrapment. 
Ms. Fennell's presentation was followed by a presentation by Lenore 
Terr, a child psychologist. Ms. Terr explained that evidence suggests 
that small children basically ``shut down'' and passively wait for 
rescue in situations like trunk entrapment. Hence, she recommended that 
any trunk release must be very simple or it will not help small 
    The next presentation at the first meeting was by Mr. Robert Lange 
of General Motors Corporation (GM). Mr. Lange presented GM's research 
and trunk safety retrofit solution. GM's interior release mechanism is 
a handle that is lighted for 30 minutes after the trunk is closed. GM's 
research found that most 3 to 6-year old children could successfully 
use this handle. The success rate increased dramatically as children 
got older. However, Mr. Lange emphasized that neither GM's handle nor 
any other approach will allow all 3 to 6-year old children to get out 
of a trunk alive. That is why, according to Mr. Lange, GM's retrofit 
switch requires a deliberate movement of a switch to latch the trunk 
closed. GM believes this will prevent a significant portion of 
inadvertent trunk entrapments.
    The final presentation at the first meeting was by Wayne Lord, of 
the FBI's National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime. Mr. Lord 
said we learn about criminals by studying their reactions to certain 
situations or stimuli. These reactions allow one to predict likely 
future behavior when confronted with those situations or stimuli. There 
are currently no studies of which Mr. Lord is aware that involve the 
behavior of criminals who knew there was a trunk release inside the 
trunk. Hence, there is no scientific basis for predictions about what 
criminals will do if there are inside trunk releases (either harm or 
immobilize victims or ignore or forget about the trunk release). Any 
prediction as to which of these two courses criminals will take is just 
a guess, and the FBI will not do that.
    At the second meeting of the Expert Panel on March 9, 1999, the 
first presentation was by Dr. Jonathan Arden, a forensic pathologist 
and the Medical Examiner for the District of Columbia. Dr. Arden 
provided a detailed medical description of asphyxiation and 
hyperthermia, the diagnoses on the death certificates of the children 
who died in the trunks of cars. Dr. Arden suggested the preferred 
approach would be to get the children out of the trunk as quickly as 
possible. The other presentation at the second meeting was by Lois 
Fingerhut of the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), who gave 
information about the pilot program NHTSA and NCHS have undertaken to 
look at non-crash deaths in vehicles. Ms. Fingerhut gave out a copy of 
a standard death certificate and explained how and where the 
information on the cause of death is coded.

[[Page 70674]]

    The Expert Panel spent a significant part of the second meeting 
discussing possible paths for getting inside trunk releases into 
vehicles. The options considered were:
    1. Rely on voluntary actions by manufacturers to install inside 
trunk releases. The potential benefits identified with this path were 
that it allows maximum freedom to develop and install a variety of 
different solutions without imposing any unintended regulatory 
obstacles. The potential negative implications of this path were that 
not all manufacturers would necessarily install inside trunk releases 
on all their vehicles.
    2. NHTSA Establishes a Requirement for Vehicles to be Equipped with 
Inside Trunk Releases without any Performance Requirements. The 
potential benefit of this path is that it allows manufacturers maximum 
freedom to experiment with different designs of inside trunk releases, 
while assuring that all vehicles with trunks will have an inside trunk 
release. The potential negative implications of this path were that, 
absent performance requirements, the goals of the requirement might not 
be fulfilled. Manufacturers might choose ineffective inside trunk 
releases that would fully comply with such a standard.
    3. NHTSA Establishes a Detailed Performance Requirement for Inside 
Trunk Releases. The potential benefit of this path is that it 
establishes clear guidance as to what performance is expected from 
inside trunk releases. The potential negative of this path is the 
amount of time it would take to conduct research to determine what 
performance requirements should be established. In addition, detailed 
performance requirements can pose obstacles to new technologies not 
available at the time the performance requirements are established.
    The Expert Panel did not decide on any one of these three options 
at its second meeting, but there was significant discussion of each of 
these courses of action. The Panel decided to wait to make any 
recommendation as to the approach it would recommend.
    At the third meeting of the Expert Panel on May 3, 1999, Mr. 
Michael Stando of Ford Motor Company gave a presentation about the 
inside trunk release that will be original equipment on ALL of its 
model year 2000 cars. This decision by Ford affects 1.8 million cars 
and three latch suppliers. Mr. Stando said that Ford generated 22 
different potential approaches. Ford consulted a psychologist 
specializing in child behavior. The psychologist said that the most 
natural response for children 18 months to 4 years old to an object 
that interests them is to grasp the object and pull it toward 
themselves, to put it in their mouth if they are younger and to 
visually examine it more closely if they are older. Mr. Stando stated 
that Ford human factors specialists then tested their symbol and 
symbol/handle recognition on 27 children between the ages of three and 
five. 18 of the 27 children achieved at least partial symbol/handle 
recognition. Ford's inside trunk release is cable-operated with a T-
shaped handle. The handle is sized for a child's hand and made of 
polypropylene, like many food containers. Mr. Stando said that the 
handle has a phosphorescent ``glow-in-the-dark'' additive, so it needs 
no electrical power. The handle is quick-charging--it needs only 10 
seconds of garage light to glow visibly inside the closed trunk. The 
glow was said to be very long-lasting (up to 8 hours when fully 
charged). The handle operates with a pull motion. It is low effort and 
requires only one inch of travel, factors designed to make the trunk 
release system child-friendly, according to Mr. Stando. In addition, 
this mechanism can be retrofitted on Ford cars from one to five model 
years back. Mr. Stando announced that Ford will make this release 
available as a retrofit option for these older vehicles.
    As a result of the information and discussions at these three 
meetings, the Expert Panel announced a series of recommendations on 
June 8, 1999. One of these recommendations was that ``[a]ll automobile 
manufacturers should design and install trunk safety features, 
including internal trunk release mechanisms, into all new vehicles by 
January 1, 2001.'' Another recommendation was that NHTSA ``should issue 
a standard requiring vehicles to be equipped with internal trunk 
release mechanisms. The standard should hold the automobile industry 
accountable for taking action, yet allow manufacturers the freedom to 
determine optimal design solutions. Manufacturers are urged to pursue 
voluntary action rather than waiting for NHTSA's rulemaking.'' 
Interested people can read all of the Expert Panel's recommendations in 
the docket at NHTSA-99-5063-4. This proposal follows up on those 

NHTSA's Proposal for Original Equipment Inside Trunk Releases

Safety Need and Efficacy of Countermeasures

    In the agency's previous look at inside trunk releases in 1984, we 
stated that we knew of no data about the size of the safety problem or 
the likely effectiveness of an internal trunk release at addressing 
that problem. We now have a report by the Centers for Disease Control 
in December 1998 that documented 19 cases of children ages 6 or younger 
that died in car trunks from 1987 to 1998. The cause of death in all 
cases was either hyperthermia (``heat stroke'') or hyperthermia plus 
    We acknowledge that this problem is not the largest motor vehicle 
safety issue, not even for children ages 6 or younger. However, we do 
not believe that just because a problem is relatively small, NHTSA 
should do nothing to address it. The entire subject of preventing 
injury and death from motor vehicles in something other than on-road 
crashes is one that is often given short shrift because it is so hard 
to document the size of the problem. There are no reliable Federal data 
sources that track non-crash injuries. Nevertheless, NHTSA is 
specifically charged by law with protecting the public against 
unreasonable risks in non-crash situations, as well as crash 
situations. Since more than 40,000 people die each year from motor 
vehicle crashes, we as an agency have rightly focused our resources and 
efforts on crash-related situations. However, if the safety risks from 
a non-crash situation can be quantified, as this has been by the 
Centers for Disease Control report and the work of the Expert Panel, 
NHTSA must then consider whether those safety risks can be effectively 
addressed by a means whose costs are reasonably related to the expected 
    With respect to the likely efficacy of internal trunk releases, we 
now have data from General Motors and Ford that indicates many, but not 
all, children from ages three to six will be able to use those 
manufacturers' designs for internal trunk releases to escape from 
locked trunks. Ford is voluntarily equipping all of its model year 2000 
vehicles that have trunks with these internal trunk releases. We 
interpret this as a conclusion by that company that the cost of its 
internal trunk release design is reasonable in relation to the safety 
    Based on this information on the size of the problem and the 
efficacy of likely countermeasures, which has become available since we 
last considered mandating internal trunk releases, NHTSA now concludes 
that this safety problem appears to be one that it would be appropriate 
to address with a Federal motor vehicle safety standard. The next issue 
we must address is what requirements we should propose for this new 

[[Page 70675]]

Proposed Requirements

    The Expert Panel spent quite a bit of time discussing how detailed 
the performance requirements for interior trunk releases should be. The 
agency has a variety of approaches for dealing with potential safety 
features. At one end of the spectrum, some safety features are 
installed voluntarily by manufacturers with no Federal motor vehicle 
safety standard requirement to do so. One current example of this is 
Antilock Brake Systems on passenger cars and light trucks. This 
voluntary approach allows manufacturers to choose whether to put the 
safety feature on their vehicles and the performance characteristics of 
the design of the safety feature they will install. One advantage of 
this approach is it gets the safety feature on vehicles more quickly, 
since there is no need to wait for action by NHTSA. However, a 
substantial disadvantage of this approach is that the safety feature is 
not usually installed on every vehicle.
    At the other end of the spectrum is when NHTSA requires a safety 
feature by issuing a Federal motor vehicle safety standard that 
requires the equipment and specifies necessary performance levels for 
the equipment. One current example of this is frontal air bags in cars 
and light trucks. This approach assures that the safety feature will be 
installed on every new car and light truck and that the performance 
will achieve levels that are determined to be the minimum acceptable 
for protection of the public. However, this approach takes the most 
time to get implemented. It is especially difficult in an area like 
interior trunk releases, where there is little existing research. NHTSA 
would have to first conduct its own research in this area. This would 
likely take two years or more. We would then have to initiate the 
rulemaking process. Our rulemaking on average takes 18 to 24 months to 
produce a final rule. We would have to allow some leadtime for 
manufacturers to install internal trunk releases in their vehicles. 
Hence, a detailed performance standard would take four to five years to 
get internal trunk releases in vehicles.
    The question then is whether we can find some middle ground between 
allowing manufacturers to decide if and when they will install interior 
trunk releases in their vehicles and waiting five years for a detailed 
performance standard. The Expert Panel believed it found such a middle 
ground and recommended that NHTSA adopt a general equipment requirement 
for interior trunk releases, without specifying detailed performance 
requirements. This approach ensures that every new car and light truck 
will be equipped with an interior trunk release, while allowing vehicle 
manufacturers substantial flexibility to determine the optimal 
solutions for their vehicles.
    NHTSA has successfully used this approach in Federal Motor Vehicle 
Safety Standard No. 113, Hood Latch System (49 CFR Sec. 571.113). That 
standard simply requires that a front opening hood must have a second 
latch position. No details of the latch's performance are specified. 
This simple standard obliged manufacturers to put a second latch 
position on the hoods of all their vehicles. If needed, the agency 
could have revisited this standard to add more detailed performance 
requirements. However, the safety problem of hoods flying open while 
the vehicle was in motion and obstructing the driver's vision was 
effectively addressed by this general equipment requirement.
    We agree with the Expert Panel's recommendation. With respect to 
interior trunk releases, NHTSA wants to allow manufacturers the freedom 
to determine optimal design solutions for their vehicles, while 
assuring the public that all new vehicles with trunks will have an 
interior trunk release as soon as practicable. A general equipment 
standard achieves this.
    However, this proposed standard includes an additional requirement 
for interior trunk releases. The internal trunk release must include a 
feature that allows it to be easily seen inside the closed trunk. It is 
very dark inside a closed trunk. One cannot expect victims of trunk 
entrapment, especially small children, to grope around in hopes of 
locating the internal trunk release. GM will address this issue by 
lighting its release handle, while Ford has chosen a phosphorescent 
release mechanism. Either of these approaches is acceptable, as are any 
other approaches that assure victims trapped inside a trunk will be 
able to quickly locate the release mechanism.
    Although this proposed standard does not explicitly require it, 
NHTSA notes that the Expert Panel recommended that manufacturers should 
base their designs for internal trunk releases upon the cognitive and 
physical abilities of young children. In other words, the Expert Panel 
was advising other manufacturers to do what General Motors and Ford 
have done--take the time to understand the abilities of young children 
and tailor the designs to those abilities. The Expert Panel reasoned 
that an internal trunk release mechanism that is designed to be 
operated by small children will also work well for adults. The opposite 
would not necessarily be true--that is, an internal trunk release 
mechanism designed to be operated by adults might not work for small 

Scope of Proposal

    This proposal would apply to all new vehicles with ``trunk lids.'' 
NHTSA has long defined a ``trunk lid'' in Standard No. 206 as ``a 
movable body panel that provides access from outside the vehicle to a 
space wholly partitioned from the occupant compartment by a permanently 
attached partition or a fixed or fold-down seat back.'' We are now 
proposing that all vehicles with ``trunk lids'' must have a release 
inside the trunk compartment.
    The effect of this definition is that the requirement for an 
internal release would not apply to vehicles that do not typically have 
trunk lids, like hatchback cars, station wagons, pickup trucks, sport 
utility vehicles, and vans. Although these vehicles sometimes have a 
package shelf behind the rear seat that covers a concealed cargo area, 
the package shelf is not fixed. If anyone were trapped in that area, 
they could readily lift the package shelf and escape.
    Commenters are asked to specifically address the proposed 
definition for a trunk lid and state whether they believe it is 
acceptable for the purposes of this new standard. If the commenter 
believes the proposed definition is unclear in some cases, we ask the 
commenter to provide specific examples of vehicles where they are 
unsure whether there is a trunk lid.

Consideration of Exclusions for Small Trunks or Vehicles Made by Small 

    During the Expert Panel meetings, an issue was raised as to whether 
vehicles with small trunks should be excluded from the requirement for 
an interior trunk release. The reason suggested was that some trunks 
are so small it would be physically impossible for a person to fit 
inside them. NHTSA has decided not to propose such an exemption. While 
there certainly are vehicles, especially two-seaters and sports cars, 
with very small trunks, the agency is not aware of any trunk that is so 
small a 3-year-old child could not get inside. However, the agency 
specifically asks commenters to address this tentative conclusion. If 
there are vehicle trunks that are so small even a 3-year-old child 
could not fit inside, NHTSA asks the commenter to give the dimensions 
of the trunk compartment and a suggested method for measuring a trunk 
compartment to see if it is so small the commenter believes it should 
be excluded from the

[[Page 70676]]

internal trunk release requirement. In formulating the final rule on 
this subject, NHTSA will consider the information in the comments and 
elsewhere as we re-examine our tentative decision to make even small 
trunks subject to this internal release requirement.
    A variant on this request was that vehicles made by small 
manufacturers, i.e., a company that makes no more than a few thousand 
vehicles each year, be excluded from the requirement for an internal 
trunk release. NHTSA understands that these small manufacturers have 
much lesser resources than manufacturers like Ford or General Motors. 
In recognition of this, we have occasionally allowed small 
manufacturers more time to comply with requirements that require 
intensive engineering than is allowed for larger manufacturers. 
However, we do not believe it is necessary or appropriate to do that 
with respect to internal trunk releases. The agency does not believe 
that designing and installing an internal trunk release presents the 
same kind of engineering challenge that advanced occupant protection 
systems do. The approaches taken by Ford and General Motors for 
internal trunk releases are publicly available. Thus, we are not 
proposing to exclude low volume manufacturers from the internal trunk 
release standard.


    Again, all vehicle manufacturers, not just low volume ones, can 
study the approaches Ford and General Motors have taken for internal 
trunk releases. Hence, no lengthy leadtime appears necessary before 
implementing a requirement for internal trunk releases.
    The Expert Panel was considering a recommendation that all 
manufacturers should design and install trunk safety features, 
including internal trunk release mechanisms, into all new vehicles by 
September 1, 2000, which would coincide with the start of the 2001 
model year. However, representatives of vehicle manufacturers stated 
that, while they could meet that date, a few more months would allow 
them to ensure their internal trunk release mechanisms were more 
effective. Those representatives asked that the date be postponed four 
months, to January 1, 2001, and the Expert Panel adopted the January 1, 
2001 date in its final recommendations. We are proposing the same 
January 1, 2001 date in this notice.

Organization Within Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards

    NHTSA has typically organized its safety standards so that the 100 
series of standards represents the crash avoidance standards (those 
designed to reduce the likelihood of being in a crash), the 200 series 
of standards represents the crashworthiness standards (those designed 
to protect the occupant in the event of a crash), and the 300 series of 
standards represents the post-crash fire standards (those designed to 
minimize the likelihood of a fire after a crash). A standard for an 
internal trunk release doesn't fit into any of these categories because 
there is no crash associated with the problem of becoming trapped 
inside a locked trunk. Therefore, we are proposing a new series of 
standards, the 400 series, that will be dedicated to motor vehicle 
injury prevention in non-crash events. This standard for internal trunk 
releases is proposed to be Standard No. 401.

Rulemaking Analyses and Notices

a. Executive Order 12866 (Federal Regulation) and DOT Regulatory 
Policies and Procedures

    NHTSA has examined the impact of this proposed rulemaking action 
and determined that it is not significant within the meaning of 
Executive Order 12866 and not significant within the meaning of the 
Department of Transportation's regulatory policies and procedures. 
Information indicates that an approach to internal trunk releases such 
as Ford has chosen can be accomplished for about $2.00 per vehicle. 
There are approximately 7 million new vehicles with trunks sold each 
year in the United States. Thus, if this proposal were adopted as a 
final rule, we would anticipate total costs of about $14 million, well 
under the $100 million level needed to classify a rule as major. 
Accordingly, the agency has not prepared a full preliminary regulatory 
evaluation for this proposal.

b. Regulatory Flexibility Act

    The Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980 (Public Law 96-354), as 
amended, requires agencies to evaluate the potential effects of their 
proposed and final rules on small businesses, small organizations and 
small governmental jurisdictions. The only parties affected by this 
proposal will be manufacturers of motor vehicles with trunks. To the 
extent that some of those parties qualify as small businesses, the 
costs associated with this proposal are so minor that no significant 
impacts on small businesses will result if this proposal were adopted 
as a final rule.

c. Executive Order 12612

    This proposal has been analyzed in accordance with the principles 
and criteria contained in Executive Order 12612, and the agency has 
determined that this proposal does not have sufficient federalism 
implications to warrant the preparation of a Federalism Assessment.

d. Unfunded Mandates Reform Act

    The Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (Public Law 104-4) 
requires agencies to prepare a written assessment of the costs, 
benefits and other effects of proposed or final rules that include a 
Federal mandate likely to result in the expenditure by State, local or 
tribal governments, in the aggregate, or by the private sector, of more 
than $100 million annually. This proposal would not have any such 
impacts on those parties. As noted above, the agency expects the costs 
associated with this proposal to be about $2.00 per car, or about $14 
million in the aggregate.

e. National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act

    This proposal is consistent with the National Technology Transfer 
and Advancement Act of 1995 (Public Law 104-113). Under the Act, ``all 
Federal agencies and departments shall use technical standards that are 
developed or adopted by voluntary consensus standards bodies, using 
such technical standards as a means to carry out policy objectives or 
activities determined by the agencies and departments.'' There are no 
such standards available at this time. However, one of the Expert 
Panel's recommendations was that the Society of Automotive Engineers 
(SAE) should begin work to develop a recommended practice for the 
design and performance of trunk safety features, including internal 
trunk release mechanisms. NHTSA will consider any such SAE recommended 
practice when it becomes available.

f. National Environmental Policy Act

    NHTSA has analyzed this proposed rulemaking action for the purposes 
of the National Environmental Policy Act. The agency has determined 
that adoption of this proposal in a final rule of this action would not 
have any significant impact on the quality of the human environment.

g. Executive Order 12778 (Civil Justice Reform)

    This proposal does not have any retroactive effect. Under section 
49 U.S.C. 30103, whenever a Federal motor vehicle safety standard is in 
effect, a state may not adopt or maintain a safety

[[Page 70677]]

standard applicable to the same aspect of performance which is not 
identical to the Federal standard, except to the extent that the state 
requirement imposes a higher level of performance and applies only to 
vehicles procured for the State's use. 49 U.S.C. 30161 sets forth a 
procedure for judicial review of final rules establishing, amending or 
revoking Federal motor vehicle safety standards. That section does not 
require submission of a petition for reconsideration or other 
administrative proceedings before parties may file suit in court.

h. Paperwork Reduction Act

    This proposal does not have any requirements that are considered to 
be information collection requirements as defined by the Office of 
Management and Budget (OMB) in 5 CFR Part 1320.

Submission of Comments

How Can I Influence NHTSA's Thinking on This Document?
    In developing this document, we tried to address the concerns of 
all our stakeholders. Your comments will help us improve this rule. We 
invite you to provide different views on options we propose, new 
approaches we have not considered, new data, how this document may 
affect you, or other relevant information. We welcome your views on all 
aspects of this document. Your comments will be most effective if you 
follow the suggestions below:
    Explain your views and reasoning as clearly as possible.
     Provide solid technical and cost data to support your 
     If you estimate potential costs, explain how you arrived 
at the estimate.
     Tell us which parts of this document you support, as well 
as those with which you disagree.
     Provide specific examples to illustrate your concerns.
     Offer specific alternatives.
     Refer your comments to specific sections of this document, 
such as the units or page numbers of the preamble, or the regulatory 
     Be sure to include the name, date, and docket number with 
your comments.
How do I Prepare and Submit Comments?
    Your comments must be written and in English. To ensure that your 
comments are correctly filed in the Docket, please include the docket 
number of this document in your comments.
    Your comments must not be more than 15 pages long. (49 CFR 553.21). 
We established this limit to encourage you to write your primary 
comments in a concise fashion. However, you may attach necessary 
additional documents to your comments. There is no limit on the length 
of the attachments.
    Please submit two copies of your comments, including the 
attachments, to Docket Management at the address given above under 
    Comments may also be submitted to the docket electronically by 
logging onto the Dockets Management System website at http://
dms.dot.gov. Click on ``Help & Information'' or ``Help/Info'' to obtain 
instructions for filing the document electronically.
How can I be Sure That my Comments Were Received?
    If you wish Docket Management to notify you upon its receipt of 
your comments, enclose a self-addressed, stamped postcard in the 
envelope containing your comments. Upon receiving your comments, Docket 
Management will return the postcard by mail.
How do I Submit Confidential Business Information?
    If you wish to submit any information under a claim of 
confidentiality, you should submit three copies of your complete 
submission, including the information you claim to be confidential 
business information, to the Chief Counsel, NHTSA, at the address given 
above under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. In addition, you should 
submit two copies, from which you have deleted the claimed confidential 
business information, to Docket Management at the address given above 
under ADDRESSES. When you send a comment containing information claimed 
to be confidential business information, you should include a cover 
letter setting forth the information specified in our confidential 
business information regulation. (49 CFR Part 512.)
Will the Agency Consider Late Comments?
    We will consider all comments that Docket Management receives 
before the close of business on the comment closing date indicated 
above under DATES. To the extent possible, we will also consider 
comments that Docket Management receives after that date. If Docket 
Management receives a comment too late for us to consider it in 
developing a final rule (assuming that one is issued), we will consider 
that comment as an informal suggestion for future rulemaking action.
How can I Read the Comments Submitted by Other People?
    You may read the comments received by Docket Management at the 
address given above under ADDRESSES. The hours of the Docket are 
indicated above in the same location.
    You may also see the comments on the Internet. To read the comments 
on the Internet, take the following steps:
    (1) Go to the Docket Management System (DMS) Web page of the 
Department of Transportation (http://dms.dot.gov/).
    (2) On that page, click on ``search.''
    (3) On the next page (http://dms.dot.gov/search/), type in the 
four-digit docket number shown at the beginning of this document. 
Example: If the docket number were ``NHTSA-1998-1234,'' you would type 
``1234.'' After typing the docket number, click on ``search.''
    (4) On the next page, which contains docket summary information for 
the docket you selected, click on the desired comments. You may 
download the comments. Although the comments are imaged documents, 
instead of word processing documents, the ``pdf'' versions of the 
documents are word searchable.
    Please note that even after the comment closing date, we will 
continue to file relevant information in the Docket as it becomes 
available. Further, some people may submit late comments. Accordingly, 
we recommend that you periodically check the Docket for new material.
Plain Language
    Executive Order 12866 and the President's memorandum of June 1, 
1998, require each agency to write all rules in plain language. 
Application of the principles of plain language includes consideration 
of the following questions:
     Have we organized the material to suit the public's needs?
     Are the requirements in the rule clearly stated?
     Does the rule contain technical language or jargon that is 
not clear?
     Would a different format (grouping and order of sections, 
use of headings, paragraphing) make the rule easier to understand?
     Would more (but shorter) sections be better?
     Could we improve clarity by adding tables, lists, or 
     What else could we do to make the rule easier to 
    If you have any responses to these questions, please include them 
in your comments on this document.

[[Page 70678]]

List of Subjects in 49 CFR Part 571

    Imports, Incorporation by reference, Motor vehicle safety, 
Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Tires.

    In consideration of the foregoing, NHTSA proposes to amends 49 CFR 
Chapter V as set forth below.


    1. The authority citation for Part 571 would continue to read as 

    Authority: 49 U.S.C. 322, 30111, 30115, 30166 and 30177; 
delegation of authority at 49 CFR 1.50.

    2. A new section 571.401 would be added to Part 571, to read as 

Sec. 571.401  Standard No. 401; Internal trunk release.

    S1. Purpose and scope. This standard establishes the requirement 
for providing a release mechanism inside the trunk compartment of a 
motor vehicle, so that people trapped inside the trunk will be able to 
unlatch the trunk.
    S2. Application. This standard applies to passenger cars, 
multipurpose passenger vehicles, buses, and trucks that have a trunk 
    S3. Definitions. Trunk lid means a movable body panel that provides 
access from outside the vehicle to a space wholly partitioned from the 
occupant compartment by a permanently attached partition or a fixed or 
fold-down seat back.
    S4. Requirements. Each motor vehicle that has a trunk lid shall 
have a release mechanism inside the trunk compartment that unlatches 
the trunk lid. This internal trunk release must include a feature, like 
lighting or phosphorescence, that allows it to be easily seen inside 
the closed trunk.

    Issued on December 13, 1999.
Stephen R. Kratzke,
Acting Associate Administrator for Safety Performance Standards.
[FR Doc. 99-32752 Filed 12-14-99; 3:51 pm]