Posted in: Vehicles

Why should I worry about cargo and where I put it?

In a crash, unrestrained cargo can fly around the car, hitting passengers and causing great injury. In a crash, the G-forces make everything in the car much heavier. A 30mph crash has about 20-25 G’s – which will make a 50 pound object feel like it weighs 1,000 pounds during the crash (50×20=1000).

My SUV/wagon comes with a pull across cargo barrier. Will this barrier work in a crash?

The pull-across mat that comes with many SUVs and wagons are designed so that others can’t see what you have in your trunk – they are not designed, nor will they work, to keep cargo secure during a crash. The same goes for the metal pet screens that some people use to divide their cargo and passenger areas.

Do I really need to be careful about cargo?

Documented cases of cargo-caused injuries indicate the importance of cargo barriers.

For example, consider a case report of a 33 year old man who was driving a hatchback at 40mph and had unrestrained wooden planks in the cargo area (he had folded down the 2nd row seats). In the crash, the planks traveled forward into the back of his vehicle seat, tearing his aorta and rupturing his spleen. His injuries were fatal.

Another case report involves a six year old boy who was wearing his seat belt while riding in the back seat of a hatchback involved in a high speed crash. There was computing equipment stored in the rear of the hatchback; the equipment moved forward during the crash, breaking the rear seat. The six year old broke his back, and tore his intestines; he died from his injuries. His sister, who was riding in the back seat with him, broke her neck and became a quadriplegic.

What can I do to keep my family safe?

  1. Try to limit what you bring. If there are things (especially heavy things) that you could leave at home… do so.
  2. When packing the trunk/cargo area, put the heaviest objects closest to the back seat and the lightest towards the trunk opening.
  3. When possible, use ratchet straps that have a weight rating listed on them (so you can have greater confidence that they may be able to withstand the crash forces) to tie down your cargo. Do NOT use bungee cords – these will break instantly in a crash. CargoBuckle makes a wide variety of tie downs – and they are a division of IMMI – the company that makes the LATCH hardware and harness straps & buckles for many of the expensive car seats in the US & abroad (so they know about crash testing).
  4. If you have a 3rd row in your SUV or minivan that you aren’t using, keep it upright and put the cargo BEHIND it – allowing the 3rd row to serve as a barrier between the cargo and the kids in the 2nd row.

What about cargo in the passenger section of my car?

Be careful what you put in the passenger section of your car. Don’t leave sharp objects like umbrellas or heavy objects like water bottles or textbooks unrestrained, since these can fly around and injure someone in a crash. If you’ve removed a vehicle head restraint (often to allow a car seat to install more securely), keep the head restraint in your garage and not in the vehicle as the large metal spokes can easily cause injuries if they fly around. Be careful which objects you allow your kids to play with in the car. DVD players strapped onto the head rest facing your child will likely fly and hit the child in the head in a crash as the straps holding the DVD player are not strong enough to hold in a crash. Same goes for iPad mounts.

I have an SUV/minivan with a 3rd row – can I keep half folded down for cargo?

The child on the right in this 3rd row is at significant risk of the stroller flying on top of them in a crash.

The child on the right in this 3rd row is at significant risk of the stroller flying on top of them in a crash.

Make sure you have enough trunk space so that cargo stays out of the passenger area. If you’re buying a vehicle with a 3rd row, it’s ideal to keep the third row up (as if people were riding in the 3rd row) to act as a barrier between the cargo and the kids in the 2nd row.

If you’re planning to put someone in the 3rd row, please know that it is NOT SAFE to have part of the 3rd row folded down while someone’s sitting back there. That makes it such that the person in the 3rd row is in essence riding in the trunk. All the cargo you have next to them can fly on top of them in a crash.

Note: many SUVs with a 3rd row will have insufficient trunk space for even everyday use, like groceries and strollers, when the 3rd row is being used. Check carefully before purchasing! For those needing to use the 3rd row for seating, a minivan will typically offer much more cargo space than an SUV.

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