As vehicles were left floating and damaged in the flooded streets in Houston, car safety expert Janette Fennell weighs in on how to stay safe. (Getty)
As hurricane season devastates the country, many desperate residents have found themselves facing danger in the place they hoped would take them to safety: their cars.
Drivers and their passengers are at risk to become stuck or stalled as water rises, and in some instances can be carried off by moving water or left unable to avoid collapsed trees or sections of road.
Motorists should know how to escape their vehicles should the roads become too dangerous, Janette Fennell, founder and president of KidsAndCars.org, told InsideEdition.com.
“It’s so upsetting; every time we turn on the news and we see so many people being affected by all that water from Hurricane Harvey… when I see people getting into water that’s higher than their vehicle I want to yell, ‘Here, you need a ‘resqme’ tool, you need a ‘resqme’ tool!” Fennell said. “It’s something everyone needs on their keychain.”
Fennell suggested always keeping a resqme car escape tool on hand in the event of an emergency.
The gadget is equipped with a blade to cut a seat belt and when pressed into the corner of a car window, will break the glass.
“It will get you out of that trap of a vehicle when you’re under water,” she said. “It’s a must have for everybody’s keychain.”
Fennell is well-versed in the importance of having tools on hand that can save lives when faced with danger in your own car.
In October 1995, she and her husband were kidnapped at gunpoint and forced into the trunk of their car, while their 9-month-old baby was left on their front porch.
After being assaulted, robbed and left for dead, the couple managedto escape their trunk, despite it not having an internal trunk release mechanism, and reunited with their child.
At first, they didn’t realize how close they had come to a tragic situation until officers told them.
“They said, ‘You don’t have to think very hard through all the steps you went through to understand people don’t usually walk away from this type of a situation relatively unharmed,’” Fennell said.
“So that stuck in my head — ‘How does this end?’” she added. “I decided it didn’t make sense that you could be somebody in the trunk of their own car and there was no means of escape.”
She founded KidsAndCars.org and led a successful campaign to convince the auto industry and federal regulators to make an internal trunk release mechanism necessary in all cars sold or leased in the U.S.
“The best part of the whole story is the fact that we have not been able to document one fatality in the trunk of a car that has that release,” Fennell said. “Zero, nada, none. That’s the most exciting thing when you work in injury prevention is these simple fixes will save lives.”
Since she founded the organization, Fennell has been made aware of other dangers vehicles can pose to occupants– including the risks of getting trapped inside a car in a flood or storm.
“What happens so many times, people get in this water and they don’t have a means of escape,” Fennell said. “If I’m caught in my vehicle, all I need to do is [use a car escape tool such as the ‘resqme’ to] push on one of the corners and the glass will immediately shatter and out I can go.”