Thursday, January 31, 2013

The danger of projectiles! Car Seat Safety Series -- Part 7

I'm happy to be offering the 7th installment in the Car Seat Safety Series, written by Megan Arce, CPST (Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician) and mother of two little princesses. This is part 1 or 2 addressing various vehicle dangers, starting with projectiles.


Installing and using a child’s car seat are only part of keeping our children (and our selves!) safe in a vehicle. There are several other factors to consider when looking at vehicle safety on the whole. A few tweaks here and there to your regular car routine could make everybody in your car safer. This week, we’re discussing the danger of projectiles and next week we’ll cover seat belt entanglement, air bags, children left unattended and children outside of the blind spot.


Anything in your vehicle that isn’t somehow attached to the vehicle is a potential projectile flying object in a crash. In other words, everything is going to go forcefully flying if you are in a crash, and the probability of bring struck with one of these items is very high. The 5 pound purse on your passenger seat might not appear to be a danger, but with crash forces taken into account, that same 5 pound purse would hit somebody at 175 pounds of force, and that is if you were only driving at 35 miles per hour (factor much higher pounds of force for crashes at higher speeds: weight of object times x speed = pounds of force). People have been killed by their laptop computers, groceries, tools, etc. A toddler was almost scalped by his sippy cup.

Solutions? Keep as little in your vehicle as possible, secure what is in your vehicle, utilize your trunk (sedans) or cargo cover (SUVs). If your SUV did not come with one, cargo nets, bungee cords and ratcheting straps can be used. I am overly prepared by nature, so I had a hard time going bare minimum in my car, so this is what the back of my vehicle looks like:

All items seen here are secured to the vehicle.  Groceries go in the grocery net (stolen from my husband’s SUV, but can be purchased at dealerships). I utilize the storage area under the grocery net and my stroller is secured with a bungee cord of its own as well.  


Behind my passenger seat (under my rear-facing daughter’s seat), a bungee cord runs  through a plastic tub to secure it to the metal rails under the seat. This tub has a locking to secure its contents (snacks mainly!).    

By no means is this a fail-safe method (bungee cords can snap under extreme forces), but it all makes me feel better and at the very least, could help slow the projectiles down. I have to remember to re-hook the stroller each time it goes back in the car (which quickly became habit and only takes a few extra seconds) and nothing else requires any maintenance, just the initial securing. 

Items like iPods and Gameboys, things intended to keep them entertained, could end up causing a child great harm as well -- soft toys and books are the best option (my kids like stickers a lot too!). I keep a soft basket in between my two children full of paper books and plush animals (both of which we rotate frequently to keep them interested). The basket is secured with the middle lap/shoulder belt running through it (holes cut on either side).

Other potential projectiles to consider: unbuckled passengers! Not only can the driver be ticketed if a passenger in the vehicle does not buckle up, but that person could become THE object that causes other passengers grave injury when the bodies make head-to-head contact at high speeds (again, weight of object times x speed = pounds of force). This goes for the family dog as well! Pets need to be secured both for their safety, and the safety of the passengers in the vehicle! Factory installed pet barriers are a safe option if a pet frequently rides in your car (pressure mounted barriers can themselves become a projectile and are not recommended), as are pet harnesses. Pet crates can easily be secured with a ratcheting strap as well. 

Oh, and one other thing. Make sure you always have booster seats strapped in, even when no one's in them!

Next week, I'll address other dangers, such as seat belt entanglement, air bags, unattended children, and children outside your vehicle in your blind spot.

Click the following links to learn more about keeping your kids safe in the car:

Car Seat Safety Series

Part 1 -- Airplane safety 

Part 2 -- Car seats and winter coats: how to keep the little ones warm (and SAFE) 

Part 3 -- Extended rear facing and extended harnessing

Part 4 -- LATCH vs. seat belt

Part 5 -- Correct harness use

Part 6 --  Car Seats Expire, Too!


  1. Any suggestions on how to keep our water bottles and coffee cups from flying around? I have often thought that the things in the back of our vehicle should be fastened down but I have never done anything about it. Why don't car manufacturers come up with built in safety features to address these problem. Where is the hook to attach you purse and snack bags or the shovel that needs to be there in the winter? I can see that I will have to get inventive and come up with ways to make our vehicles safer places for us to travel in.

    1. I don't have any suggestions for you about the bottles and coffee cups :-( And I think you're on to something! Can't wait to hear about your inventions!


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