Securing loose luggage could save your life

FRESNO, Calif.

The trunk looks packed and ready to go, but some of this stuff just thrown in here could become dangerous.

It was an unsecured laptop that most likely killed Heather Storey. When her car was hit by a tow truck in 2009, Heather's laptop computer turned into a deadly projectile, striking her in the head and neck. "It's been hard since she's been gone. We really miss her," said Heather's mother Marilyn Storey.

Consumer Reports' David Champion says loose objects in a car can pose a serious danger. "In a crash, just imagine something like this being thrown at you at 30 miles an hour. It's going to really hurt or could be fatal."

David Champion: "Anything heavy that might become a projectile in a car should be actually stowed underneath or strapped down. With heavy objects, you need to put them as far forward as you can and then strap them down."

Once items are secured, place softer objects on top. Once you're done packing, it's a good idea to do a test right in your driveway. Start up slowly, and then hit the brakes suddenly to see if anything shifts.

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 of an SUV, you actually raise the center of gravity higher, making it more likely to roll over in a crash."

Also check how much weight your vehicle can carry safely. This Honda Element isn't supposed to carry more than 675 pounds. "You take three buddies fishing, you better not catch anything because that 675 pounds is likely to be just the four adults," said Champion.

While organizing your car's contents can take some time, it can be the difference between life and death.

To find out how much weight your vehicle can carry, check the owner's manual or look for a sticker inside the front door.

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