Making sure cargo is not a threat

Making sure cargo is not a threat

What’s the best way to ensure that luggage and other items in your car are safe? What should you use a roof box for and what’s the point of fastening the seat belt when no one is sitting in the seat? Find out in our latest safe driving tips.

30. 7. 2021 Škoda World

You already know how to adjust your seats and find your ideal position behind the steering wheel. You’ve learnt why resting your feet on the dashboard is a bad idea and how to keep children safe in the car. Today, ŠKODA Traffic Safety Research team member Robert Šťastný will explain the golden rules for transporting various types of cargo safely.

It’s hard to stop your luggage compartment from becoming a chaotic mess without a sophisticated netting system.

When stowing items in the boot, the thing to keep in mind is that the forces on the rear seat backrest in the event of a collision should be kept as low as possible. So the heaviest items should rest on the floor of the boot and just behind the backrests (so the items won’t pick up speed and become a battering ram). Lighter things can be higher up and closer to the fifth door.

Seat belt

“If I’m carrying some really heavy item, let’s say building materials or a gas cylinder, it’s eminently sensible to strap it down in the boot. Forget about cheap straps from a petrol station, say. Look for ones that are certified to hold items safely in place,” Robert Šťastný advises.

DSC4098-kopie-copy-1 Robert Šťastný
ŠKODA Traffic Safety Research team

And he adds another useful piece of advice: if you don’t have passengers in the rear seats – and you have a heavy load in the boot – make use of seat belts and fasten the rear seats when empty (if the belts are anchored to the car body and not the backrest). It’s an extra safety restraint in case of a crash. In cars where the middle belt is attached to the ceiling, use that too.

Also be very careful what you carry on the rear shelf. If you brake hard or, heaven forbid, crash into something, any items stored there will fly freely forwards through the car’s interior. So don’t use the shelf for items that weigh anything at all, like bottles, lunch boxes, books or umbrellas. “On the other hand, a pillow, a small blanket, a yoga mat and the like are fine. They won’t cause harm, especially if they’re behind the armrests. Here it’s worth imagining that if we hit a solid obstacle at, say, fifty kilometres an hour, everything that’s not anchored in place continues to fly forwards at that speed. And it makes a big difference whether it’s a sweater or a water bottle whizzing past your ear at that speed,” Šťastný points out.

An illustration of how dangerous loose items on the rear shelf can be in a collision 

“If you’re carrying a bicycle or more than one bike inside a car with the rear seats folded down, it’s a good idea to use the holders specially intended for this purpose. And even then, to be on the safe side I would secure the individual parts of the unfolded bike with straps. Of course, you can also make clever use of the rear seat belts for this,” says Šťastný, adding another good tip.


TIP: Packing for a holiday and planning to fill your boot to the brim? Anything that you’ll need quick access to – like the first-aid kit and warning triangle – should be kept to the side of it, so you don’t have to wrestle with your heavy luggage when you need it. The warning triangle has its own place in the fifth door of some cars.

Similarly, luggage that doesn’t fit in the boot can also be strapped down with a seat belt on one of the rear seats. Again, the ultimate purpose is to prevent objects from moving freely in the interior during hard braking or a collision.

On the roof, on the ball

Safety must also be kept in mind when using roof boxes. Robert Šťastný’s advice is this: “Again, look for roof boxes that have passed crash tests. Check the vehicle documents for the maximum load on the roof and remember that that includes the weight of the roof bars and the box itself.”

Always choose an aerodynamic and light roof box with the appropriate safety certificate.

“When stowing luggage in the box, half of the total weight should be in the middle between the roof bars, a quarter in the front and a quarter in the rear. When packing, make sure that the box is not in danger of being punctured if you slow down sharply – by heavy tent poles and similar items – and line the front of the box itself with something softer, such as towels or a blanket, that will absorb the kinetic energy of heavier items,” he offers another tried-and-tested trick.

If you carry your bikes on the roof, choose high-quality – and certified – racks from reputable manufacturers. And pay attention to the bike before putting it on the roof. “Make sure you remove anything from the bike that could come loose – a speedometer, water bottle, lights, panniers or pump. For one thing, you won’t lose them, but above all they won’t fly off and cause damage to others,” Šťastný recommends. Bikes are also good on a tow-bar rack. They are hidden behind the car and are not subject to the same forces as on the roof, for example in bends.

Situating carrying equipment behind the car is both more economical (less drag results in fuel savings) and more practical (easier to handle and get at).

Live luggage

Finally, let’s mention one particular group of “luggage” we have in our cars. Animals also need to be secured, for the safety of both them and the human car occupants. For small ones, this is easy – a box or cage is sufficient; but their place is in the boot, not on your lap. Although this may be uncomfortable for the pet, it won’t do any harm and the health of your fellow humans is more important. A metal cage can wreak havoc in a car’s interior in the event of a collision. If you have a spare seat, though, you can fasten the cage in place with a seat belt. 

When you have a dog on the back seat, buckling it in is essential.

Dogs are probably our most common in-car companions. For larger ones, it is wise to get a special cage for the boot of the car, which will provide maximum comfort and security, and the animal will not endanger the crew. “If we absolutely have to have the dog in the interior of the car, the best way is to combine a special dog harness that you can secure with a seat belt, and a sheet or blanket that is attached to the front and rear head restraints suspended between them like a large bathtub. The animal should always be harnessed and secured in some way while driving. We have to remember that sudden braking or an impact will cause it to fly through the interior and injure itself and the crew, but even in a less serious situation it can take fright and bite someone as a panic reaction,” concludes Šťastný.

You can find lots of safe driving advice in this article.