Road trip danger

June 25, 2010 8:38:57 PM PDT
Heading out on a family road trip usually means taking lots of luggage and gear. But Consumer Reports says you also need to take extra care when packing your vehicle. Otherwise your trip could end in disaster.

It was a laptop that most likely killed a young woman named Heather Storey. When her car was hit by a tow truck in 2009, Heather's computer turned into a deadly projectile, striking her in the head and neck.

Consumer Reports' Director of Auto Testing, David Champion, says loose objects in a car can pose a serious danger. In a crash, even something small like a water bottle thrown at you at 30 miles an hour could be fatal.

Champion says that anything heavy that might become a projectile in a car should be stowed underneath or strapped down. With heavy objects, pack them as far forward as you can and then strap them down.

Once items are secured, place softer objects on top. And you should avoid packing anything on the roof of an SUV. SUVs have a higher center of gravity than a sedan. If you load anything on the roof, you actually raise the center of gravity higher, making it more likely to rollover in a crash.

Also check how much weight your vehicle can carry safely. The maximum weight is listed in the owner's manual or on a sticker inside the front door.

Consumer Reports says once you're done packing, it's a good idea to do a test right in your driveway. Start up slowly, then hit the brakes suddenly to see if anything shifts.

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