Rapid Fire

Dead Tesla Traps Toddler In Hot Car, Raises Concerns About Electric Doors

Renee Sanchez was about to take her 20-month-old granddaughter to the Phoenix Zoo. After safely strapping her into her car seat, Sanchez went to get into her Tesla but then realized the EV was dead. Her granddaughter was now trapped inside of the car with no way to easily get out.

Tesla, and most other automakers with electronic door releases, have manual releases that owners can use from inside the cabin. At the same time, several owners don’t know about the manual releases that come on vehicles with electronic door latches.

At times, they even panic before learning that all they had to do to get out was to pull a manual lever inches from their own hand. In addition, those manual releases don’t help if the only person in the car is a toddler or infant as was the case for Sanchez.

Understanding the severity of the situation, she called 911. When the fire department arrived, they told her that they couldn’t get into the car. As reported by AZ Family, she gave them the go-ahead to break in at all costs. Sure enough, they had to smash a window to retrieve the child as quickly as possible. Notably, Tesla does have a procedure to get into the car but it requires several steps and a battery charger.

Interestingly, this sort of situation isn’t a Tesla-centric one. Plenty of modern cars, including gas-powered ones like the most recent versions of the Chevrolet Corvette. The lesson here then is clear. Those who own vehicles with an electronic door release need to know how to get into them efficiently should the battery die. If they don’t, a trapped child could be at serious risk depending on the circumstances.

Tesla, and other brands that require several steps to access the cabin, could do well to follow Chevrolet’s lead here. To access the cabin of a Corvette with a dead battery, owners use the physical key to open the rear deck. Then, they can pull a manual lever on the left side of the cargo area to open the driver’s side door. If the Tesla in this story had such a simple and straightforward system, we might not have heard of the incident at all.

In all cases, manufacturers like Tesla would do well to be sure that they educate owners to the best of their ability about manual release procedures. True, they can’t be responsible for second-hand owners. That’s where personal responsibility for safety comes into play.

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