by Cedric Hughes, Barrister & Solicitor with regular weekly contributions from Leslie McGuffin, LL.B.   

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Teenage Trunking Trend

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BC’s Graduated Licensing Program [GLP] was designed to help new drivers gain driving experience in a controlled, lower-risk environment and gain privileges as they become more skilful. Learner or “L” drivers are limited to two passengers: the licensed adult supervisor and one other person. Novice or “N” drivers are limited to one passenger unless they are driving with a supervisor 25 years or older with a valid driver's license or unless the passengers are immediate family members.

Versions of graduated licensing are in effect in several Canadian provinces, most U.S. states, New Zealand, and Australia. Studies in all these jurisdictions reportedly suggest that the programs are resulting in crash reductions ranging from 10 to 30 percent and that passenger restrictions are essential components of the program. Commonly cited statistics are that crash risk for teenage drivers increases incrementally by number of passengers. With three or more passengers, the fatal crash risk is about three times higher.
There is a general impression that teenage “N” drivers with cars often find themselves pestered by their friends to ignore the passenger limit. And one way of trying to avoid getting caught is the growing practice of “trunking”, which involves carrying passengers in the trunk while the car is being driven. There are reports of YouTube users uploading videos showing teens trunking.
Not surprisingly this work-around—also practiced, as one commentator put it, “just for the sheer goofiness of the thing” —is the cause of numerous injuries and fatalities across North America in the past few years. Enough so that California, in January 2007, passed a law against riding in a car trunk that penalizes both the driver and the passenger in the trunk.
Trunking is high risk. As one interviewed teenager put it:“I think it's kind of weird. If there's an accident, you're pretty much dead.” In 2005, for example, two teenagers in Los Angeles County were killed when they were thrown from a car trunk in a collision and then run over by oncoming traffic. The day after the California law came into effect, a 16-year-old Ottawa youth riding in the trunk of a Chrysler Intrepid transporting five other teenagers, including the 19-year-old driver, was badly injured after the vehicle swerved off the road and crashed into a house.
“They don't realize they are climbing into a potential death trap,” George Smith, a supervisor of traffic safety and training at the Canada Safety Council was quoted as saying. He explained that cars are designed to take the collision force away from the passenger compartment by folding up at the front and rear when there's an accident. Hiding in a place designed to compact when hit is “a very unsafe place to be.” 
Poisoning from seepage of carbon monoxide into the trunk, asphyxiation from lack of oxygen, and heat prostration from excessive heat in the summer also add to the list of dangerous possibilities.
Locally, a recent case of young people caught trunking in Langley has prompted the police to warn about the danger and to caution that drivers found with people in the trunk may face a “driving-contrary-to-conditions” charge as well as a fine.

Cedric Hughes

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