A test of a good argument is how well it sounds in a room filled with people who are directly affected by it. The very presence of critical observers will make logical inconsistencies shrivel like milk in vinegar.

So I ask automobile manufacturers, would you make the same outrageous excuses you made to reporters last week for not installing trunk latches if you were face to face with the parents of children who have died because they couldn't escape the inside of a trunk? Or, instead of some objective reporter on the other end of the phone, imagine yourself talking with the relative of someone who was beaten, abused and robbed, then stuffed into a trunk and either driven to a faraway spot or left to die. Would you say the same thing then?Too many of those people can be found and not just here along the Wasatch Front where an entire metro area has been shrouded by grief with the loss of five beautiful little girls. A group known as the Trunk Releases Urgently Needed Coalition has documented 650 cases of people being trapped, either forcibly by criminals or innocently because they didn't know better, inside the sealed tomb of a trunk. The little girls of West Valley City were but the latest in a long list of victims that now incredibly includes 11 children nationwide in the past month.

C'mon, automakers. Fly out here, call a meeting and say what you said last week, which was that it could be dangerous to install trunk releases on the inside because then children might think it was OK to get into a trunk. That's what Barry Felrice, director of regulatory affairs for the American Automobile Manufacturers Association said. He was echoed by Kyle Johnson, spokesman for General Motors Corp.

That is the logical equivalent of telling parents they don't need to lock their guns because it will send a message to children that is OK to play with them. Felrice and Johnson sound like two guys who don't have kids.

The problem they seem to ignore is that children already are crawling into trunks. Below a certain age, children have trouble understanding dangers and consequences, even if their parents have warned them in advance. Is the auto industry saying it can't design a simple button that a child could press - one that glows in the dark?

No responsible parent would tell a child it was OK to get in a trunk, even if it had an escape button. On a summer day, temperatures inside can reach 150 degrees or more, and there isn't much air to breathe. No solution would be foolproof, but why not give a child at least some chance of escape?

The other excuse automakers keep coming back to is that a trunk release would make criminals more violent. Take away the trunk as a convenient dumping ground for their victims, and they are likely to want to beat them more severely than they otherwise would. Presumably they polled criminals before reaching this absurd conclusion.

I suggest they log onto the Trunk Releases Urgently Needed Coalition Web page, at www.netkitchen.com/trunc, and read some of the case histories. One is of a 16-year-old boy who was abducted and stuffed in a trunk where temperatures reached 140 degrees. He was there for five hours and may have suffered permanent brain damage. Another is of a 37-year-old woman who was kept in a trunk for eight days. Her captors let her out only occasionally to rape her and slash her with a razor blade.

Tell us again, automakers, why you don't want to give these victims a chance to escape because it might make their captors angry. Tell us how any of these people could have been much worse off than they were, held inside a trunk like a bug held captive in a jar. Come out here and look us in the eye and tell us.

Eleven children have died in the past month. Remember, just the threat of E. coli problems last year caused government officials to recall tons of beef. How would they have responded if 11 children had died eating hamburgers?

Don't wait another year and a half until the next study is released. By some estimates, latches would add 50 cents to the price of a car. Why not give it a try now? If more children die despite the latch, the outcome would the same as if automakers had done nothing. But if one life is saved; if one child uses the latch, even by accident, how could you ask for a better return on your investment?