Car Seat Basics — Stowing ALL THE Projectiles!

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It’s inevitable: having Littles in the car often leads to lots of stuff in the car, and as every parent knows, it seems to multiply.  The issue of projectiles small and large is so prevalent that the standard car seat check form includes a box to tick for discussing projectiles with parents and caregivers.

Unfortunately, in a crash, all of this stuff can instantly become airborne. We have to take this stuff in the car, so let’s look at the best way to stow all the gear in a way that minimizes the risk.

With four kids riding in my car on a regular basis, I end up somewhere between carrying too many items and not having what we need to get through the trip.

Let’s face it — some of these items are necessary. Coffee, hats, jackets, coffee, first aid kits, sippy cups, coffee… we need this stuff, right? So… where can it all go and how can we store it safely?

Why is it important to stow it safely? It comes down to basic science. Anything that is not restrained in a crash will become a projectile. The car makes a sudden stop, but the items in it will continue to move until they are stopped by something else. To protect the people in the car, there are many options for restraining objects we tend to carry with us.

Things To Consider

  • Does your vehicle have a cargo area where items can be stored safely?
  • Does your vehicle have storage compartments?
  • Can larger items be secured so they won’t move around as much during a crash?
  • What about some safer options for carrying basic necessities?
  • While there aren’t necessarily a right and a wrong answer to these questions, take a look at how I’ve addressed some of these issues in my own car.


Cargo Area

My van has a cargo area behind the third row. It’s pretty large, and a lot of stuff can be safely stored there. This spot normally holds a stroller, larger items like extra car seats or training items I’m taking to an event, and groceries. I don’t normally lock down every single thing because it isn’t always feasible or practical to do so.

Longer Trips

Transporting only what I need and going directly from one place to another is usually the ideal plan for my family. Sometimes, this storage area needs to be very full, like when we took a road trip to Disneyland. To help mitigate the risk of flying projectiles during the trip, I secured all of the luggage with a ratcheting cargo strap attached to unused tether anchors. I put heavier items on the bottom and lighter items on top.

Shorter Trips

Minivan cargo area loaded for a shoter trip

Minivan cargo area loaded for a shorter trip

For everyday travel my cargo area looks something like this: a stroller folded on the floorboard and a bag or two on cargo hooks or the floorboard as well.

The floorboards in the passenger compartment are not  necessarily a designated cargo area, but putting items in this space can keep them a little further from occupants in the vehicle. When the cargo area is full, or for some reason isn’t available, putting items like backpacks or groceries in the small floor space behind rear facing seats is also a good option.  The compartmentalization of the small space will prevent those items from flying if I brake suddenly.  Always be sure that cargo behind or near a car seat does not interfere with that seat’s installation.


Storing items on the car floor in front of a rear facing car seat

Storing items on the car floor in front of a rear facing car seat

In a sedan, placing backpacks by kiddos’ feet is also a good option. Not only is it safer to have backpacks stored, it also reminds kids not to wear their backpacks while buckled into their car seats, which is an additional safety hazard. Be aware of the vehicle manufacturer’s guidelines about cargo and storing items under/against vehicle seats; manuals in newer vehicles warn about airbag sensors in the vehicle manual.

Storing items on the car floor in front of forward facing passengers

Storing items on the car floor in front of forward facing passengers

It’s convenient to keep items like first aid kits or basic kiddo necessities at hand rather than in a far rear cargo area. We prefer a lightweight, flexible storage bin packed with essentials and stored on a floorboard to keep these necessities in one place. Stowing the bin behind a rear facing car seat is great way to use that space.

Necessary Items for the Family

Storing items on the car floor in a soft-sided bin

Storing items on the car floor in a soft-sided bin

Different families will need to carry different things with them in the car. Our family keeps only the most crucial items in the car, periodically cleaning out our storage bin. The bin you see here contains spare items for my four kids during the fall/winter months; a first aid kit, baby toys/books, jackets, spare diapers and clothes, and an umbrella.

Necessary Items for Kids and Caregivers

Storing items in a vehicle storage compartment

Storing items in a vehicle storage compartment

Some items are crucial to keep within arm’s reach — coffee cups, chargers, cell phones and the like. Many vehicles have storage compartments near the front seat passengers for most, if not all of these items. We always recommend that the driver store phones and other handheld electronics during the drive to keep distractions at a minimum. Other useful items to store in compartments in the front of the car could include a tire pressure gauge and a belt cutter.

Cleaning Up Your Act

Store lighter items in open areas

Store lighter items in open areas

Here is a typical view of my van’s middle storage compartment. There’s quite a lot stuff sitting on top of it. Though this seems pretty normal, we can adjust a few things to make the van safer for everyone inside.
I’ve replaced the heavy metal cup with a lightweight plastic cup. I moved some of those books to a more secure spot, put my phone away inside a storage compartment, and left out only lighter items.

Other Storage Locations

Store heavier items in closed or secured areas

Store heavier items in closed or secured areas

These handy door pockets are a great place for that heavy metal cup and heavy books. Storing these items in the door pockets help prevent them from flying around during a crash.


Overall Thoughts

With kids in the car, you’re going to have stuff in the car. It’s unavoidable. Being involved in a crash will send all of those unsecured items flying around the car. Any loose items in the vehicle have the potential to become projectiles, but most vehicles offer a range of safer storage alternatives. These handy storage tips can help secure enough of those important projectiles so that you and your Littles won’t be knocked around.

Originally written by Laurel, edits maintained by CSFTL.