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Split 2nd Tips: How to Escape from a Car Trunk

Did you know that in 2000, the National Highway Safety Administration passed a federal law requiring all new passenger cars with trunks to be equipped with a release latch inside the trunk compartment beginning September 1, 2001? That was more than 20 years ago now! In the event you ever find yourself inside a trunk (unless it’s a REALLY old sedan), look for the yellow fluorescent pull tab! Pro tip: DO NOT pull it immediately after being placed in the trunk by your captors. (A note from the Split 2nd Team: This information applies equally to child safety as well as abduction and kidnapping. Please read and share! It could save a life!) Stay calm, listen and feel, and wait for them to be in the driver’s seat with the car starting to roll forward slowly. This will significantly increase the time it takes them to bring the car to a stop, exit the vehicle, and move to the rear of the sedan. That extra time affords you the opportunity to create distance and escape! So, what if you get abducted and put into a really old (pre-2001) sedan? Here are some tips for getting out of that trunk! Think about how a car trunk typically operates. You have a release latch near the driver’s side of the car. 9 times out of 10, and the latch mechanism itself is a fundamental mechanical lever. Let’s talk about both of those options for a minute…

Driver’s release cable

Most driver-release latches operate via a simple cable system that runs the span of the car, from the driver’s side seat (or just under the console) to the trunk latch mechanism itself. If there is no safety release latch inside the trunk, pull back the carpet and pry the thin particle board subflooring away from the driver’s side of the car. Look (if you have your tactical flash handy) or feel for a cable running along the drive’s side of the trunk floor to the center of the trunk hood. The cable in question is almost always about a 1/4” diameter black plastic-coated cable. Pull that cable towards the front of the car to activate the driver’s trunk release mechanism! Because the black plastic coating is just a protective sleeve around the actual metal cable, you may have to pull hard or, if you have a sharp object, cut away a span of the plastic in order to pull the metal cabling itself.

Actual trunk latch

If you have a small screwdriver, perhaps your small metal barreled pen (tactical pen for the win!), or even a small stiff object like a thick paperclip or a bobby pin (more on paperclips and bobby pins in the future!), you can likely pry the latch mechanism open. Just get the stiff object between the latch itself and the solid metal post of the loop that the latch is locked into and go to work!

Go for the jack

Think about what’s usually immediately under you in a car trunk: a crappy spare tire or donut, a tire jack, and sometimes a small tire iron (a great pry bar!). If all else fails, get that tire jack out from underneath you and place it directly under the trunk locking mechanism and start cranking. The force created by the jack is more than enough to lift the entire 2,000+ pound vehicle. It will absolutely break that cheap metal (or sometimes even plastic) trunk lock!

What about the worst-case scenario?

What if your captors were smarter than the average abductor? They had already deactivated the trunk release, removed the driver’s side release cable, and taken the tire jack out of the trunk. They took away your phone, flashlight, knife, etc, before tossing you into their get-away vehicle. Now you are left with far fewer options. Here is one more thing to consider if stuck in an older model vehicle. In older sedans, the brake lights were directly mounted to the car via a hollow casing in the body. You can kick those brake lights out, and the gap created will be large enough for you to put your arm through to try to signal for help. Stay safe out there! And if you’re looking to learn more about tactical training, take a look at our available tactical training courses. You never know when that information could save your life.