Our Founder’s Survival Story

Janette Fennell, from the trunk of a car to the halls of Congress… 

personal tragedy involving Janette Fennell (founder & president of KidsAndCars.org) and her family led to her dedicated career in advocating for injury control and child safety. In 1995 the couple was kidnapped at gunpoint, forced into the trunk of their car, and driven to a secluded location where they were assaulted, robbed and left for dead in the trunk of their vehicle. All of this occurred while the couple had no idea as to the whereabouts of their 9-month-old baby who had been in the vehicle with them prior to the kidnapping. The couple was quite fortunate to have escaped the confines of their trunk and were reunited with their infant son who had been left alone in front of their home.

Ms. Fennell led a successful campaign to convince the powerful auto industry and the federal government that trunk entrapment was a significant problem. Ms. Fennell’s persistence paid off when a federal regulation was issued and an internal trunk release mechanism became standard equipment in all vehicles manufactured for sale or lease in the U.S. after September 1, 2001.

While working on the issue of trunk entrapment, Ms. Fennell was constantly contacted to assist on issues such as power window strangulations and vehicles being inadvertently knocked into gear, etc. It was apparent to Ms. Fennell that similar to trunk entrapment, these type of incidents occurred on private property, and data was not being compiled.

KidsAndCars.org was formed to protect children in and around motor vehicles while on private property, (nontraffic incidents) an unrecognized danger to children. KidsAndCars.org was the first and only organization to not only recognize the dangers, but also to begin collecting data and bring national attention to these incidents. Parents are shocked to learn that every week over 2200 children are injured or killed in nontraffic events.

Janette Fennell, president and founder of KidsAndCars.org is recognized as the national leader for child safety as it relates to the dangers children face in and around motor vehicles with an in-depth specialty regarding events that take place off public roads and highways; most commonly referred to as nontraffic incidents.

The Power of Survivor Advocacy: Making Car Trunks Escapable and Channeling Grief into Policy Change, Survivor Advocacy for Injury Prevention were publications both coauthored by Ms. Fennell.  She is regularly sought out to present at national conferences.

Janette Fennell

Congress, professional organizations, the media and parents suffering the loss of a child seek out Ms.  Fennell.  She has testified before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Oversight, Federal Rights, and Agency Action for the   “Justice Delayed: The Human Cost of Regulatory Paralysis” hearing.  Ms. Fennell has testified before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce for the “Auto Safety: Existing Mandates and Emerging Issues” hearing in Washington, DC on May 18, 2009; and has also testified before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection for the “Reauthorization of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration” in Washington, DC on June 23, 2005 regarding vehicular safety for children.

As the leading expert in the nontraffic field, Ms. Fennell is sought out and often appears on national media platforms such as Good Morning America, Dateline NBC, OPRAH, NPR, the TODAY Show, the CBS Early Show, CNN, ABC Nightly News, Court TV, ABC-Primetime, The Learning Channel, MSNBC, Inside Edition, ABCNews.com, FOX, NBC Nightly News, Nancy Grace, Lifetime and numerous radio talk shows other programs.

The USA Today, Los Angeles Times, Public Citizen News, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Dallas Morning News, Chicago Tribune, Consumer Reports, San Jose Mercury News, Star Tribune, Times Herald Record, Kansas City Star and many other periodicals regularly call on Ms. Fennell for background information, statistics, emerging trends and initiatives about child safety for children involved in nontraffic incidents in and around motor vehicles.

Magazines such as People, Readers Digest, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, Ladies Home Journal, Parents, Parenting and many others have written feature articles about Ms. Fennell’s tireless work to protect children.