It’s not a trunk as such but a baby could still probably fit inside

The new Dodge Ram 2500 Heavy Duty comes packed with cutting-edge tech and can tow more than its Ford and Chevy rivals. It also comes with two storage spaces on either side of the cargo bed. It’s not weird that you can lock these storage compartments up but what is weird is that they feature an emergency latch so Dodge thought that somebody could get stuck in there somehow.

Everybody’s been raving about the new Ram HD’s comprehensive offering of onboard safety systems as well as its top-of-the-line Cummins 6.7-liter diesel engine with 1,000 pound-feet of torque on tap. However, for this article, we’ll be looking at two narrow storage compartments placed above the wheels of the new Ram.

If it can be locked, it needs an emergency latch to unlock it!

Why Does the Side Cargo Box on the 2020 Ram 2500 HD Have an Emergency Exit Latch? Who The Hell Would Get Stuck in There?
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We’ve first laid eyes on the new Ram HD the other day at the Detroit Auto Show and, beyond the features and systems and crazy specs that everyone’s buzzing about, there’s one thing that’s interesting on the outside of the Ram.

If you look at the truck from its side you will notice an openable lid cut through the sides of the bed, just above the flared wheel arches.

These are the so-called Ram Boxes and you can pop these lids open and store some extra stuff in there.

Why Does the Side Cargo Box on the 2020 Ram 2500 HD Have an Emergency Exit Latch? Who The Hell Would Get Stuck in There?
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This isn’t an all-new feature as you’ll spot these lockable compartments on older Rams as well but what caught our attention was the presence of the familiar T-shaped emergency exit latch inside.

Latches like these have been mandatory in the trunks of all cars in the U.S. since 2002 but we didn't expect to see them inside some rather narrow storage compartments on the Ram.

It’s worth pointing out that, on the inside, the floor of the compartments basically follows the wheel arch itself so, in the middle, there’s very little depth and you can put things deeper towards the compartment’s extremities.

Why Does the Side Cargo Box on the 2020 Ram 2500 HD Have an Emergency Exit Latch? Who The Hell Would Get Stuck in There?
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This is the main reason why we think that equipping the lids of these storage areas with an emergency exit latch is strange. I mean, sure, kids still get trapped inside car trunks to this day and there have been cases of people kidnapped in trunks before - more on that below - but who can actually fit inside those compartments and lock himself or herself in? I guess only a kid or a baby could probably fit in there but then there’s the question of access.

The Ram Heavy Duty isn't a low-slung exotic, it's not even your regular light pick-up truck.

It’s a tall vehicle that’s hard to climb onto if you’re a kid so it’s really unlikely for someone that’s small enough to fit inside those Ram Boxes to get in there. But, still, it’s better to be safe than sorry!

A brief history of the trunk emergency exit latch

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) had been petitioned as far back as 1984 about urging automakers to implement on all cars an interior trunk-release lever that would free people stuck in trunks before it’s too late. At the time, the NHTSA "stated that it was not aware of any data indicating that there is much likelihood of occurrence of unintentional entrapment in a vehicle’s trunk," and, as such, denied the petition.

It wasn't until late 2001 that the NHTSA finally required car manufacturers to include the emergency exit latch for 2002 model year vehicles.

Since then, no kid has died by getting stuck in the trunk of a car equipped with the latch. However, as many as 22 children have died since 2002 in the trunks of older cars that did not have this safety feature. What is more, the advocacy group that pushed for the implementation of this simple and very effective system, Kids and Cars, reports that between 10 and 20 people die stuck in trunks of older cars in the U.S. annually. That’s why if you have a car that’s older than 2002 you should retrofit it with a lever of this kind that’s a real bargain considering it actually saves lives.

The Kids & Cars organization was kicked off by Janette Fennell, a woman who felt first hand the horror of being stuck in a car’s trunk all the way back in 1995. Her story makes for a chilling read but it’s something that has happened to many people over the years and something that can still happen today. Jeanette, her husband Greig and their newborn son were returning home one Saturday evening in their white Lexus LS.

They got to their home in the San Francisco area, parked the car in the garage and, just as the garage’s doors were closing, two men wearing Halloween masks slipped underneath and proceeded to threaten Greig and Jeanette at gunpoint. They demaned that the couple would climb in their own car’s trunk, which they proceeded to do. Unaware of the state of their son, who was still in his child seat at the time the thieves showed up in their garage, they felt as the car backed out of their driveway and powered away.

Jeanette was terrified in the trunk of the family’s LS as "she had heard on Oprah that if you were kidnapped and didn’t escape within five minutes, you were dead," according to an article on the awful events that led to the introduction of this seemingly obvious safety feature that took way too long to be implemented.

The thieves drove on for a long time, so much that the couple started wondering if they’ll end up in L.A. or beyond. While stuck inside, the two started pulling away the car’s interior carpeting to reveal wires and other electrical connections inside the trunk with the hope that they could short-circuit the taillights or do something else to signal to other cars that there was someone stuck in the trunk of this white LS.

Finally, when the kidnappers decided they’d driven far enough, they pulled over in a dark park away from the concrete jungle and the innumerable shining lights. Then, they opened the trunk and, while holding the Fennells at gunpoint, urged them to hand over all of their valuable belongings including their credit cards. "They had the Fennells repeat the code five times over, and they said that if it wasn’t right they would come back, and they would kill them. And then they left," the same article states.

After they got everything they were after, the urgently closed the trunk back again, leaving Jeanette and Greig in complete darkness again. Finally, after many minutes of fiddling with the wires inside the trunk, Jeanette said in a calm voice: "I think I found the trunk release.” Once out, they realized that their son was gone. Happily, with help from the police, they found out that the robbers had left the child on the doorstep still firmly belted in his kid seat.

This harrowing experience pushed Jeanette to understand more about this type of kidnapping. She worked her way through dozens upon dozens of cases, some of which end in a horrific manner. It took her over two years to compile the data and send out letters to automakers and bureaucrats about a problem that had already been raised before but was met with general ignorance. This time, though, Jeanette was helped by then-Representative Bart Stupak who, as a former police officer and state trooper, understood the issue.

By that time, mid-way through 1998, "Congress had directed the federal agency responsible for traffic safety to study the possible benefits of equipping cars with a device that would internally release the trunk lid." The issue gained widespread publicty as mainstream media picked it up after almost a dozen kids died of overheating stuck inside car trunks that summer alone. Still, the expert panel that was formed to analyze everything wasn’t all for the proposed safety latch and, at the third and final meeting, the ’Trunk Releases Urgently Needed Coalition’ won by one vote to push automakers to fit this device in each of their cars.

Ford was the first to put emergency trunk-release latches on their cars, even before the ruling came through.

The latch was mandated to be a T-shaped glow-in-the-dark piece of plastic that can be easily accessible if you’re inside the closed trunk. The final rule by the NHTSA was published on 10.20.2000. This new Federal motor vehicle safety standard (FMVSS) was part of every new car built after September 1st, 2001 for the 2002 model year. It was a long road for this initiative to fight ’the system’ but now the latch is out there and, as we’ve seen, it isn’t only placed inside customary trunks. Anything that is large enough to fit a kid or a baby has to have them and this is why this latest Ram 2500 Heavy Duty has them too.

Further reading

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Read our full review on the 2019 Ram 1500.

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