By Kasia Ozog
Published: Monday, March 7, 2022
Updated: March 9, 2022 at 4:01 pm
Packing for a holiday can be hard. Despite the intention to only pack the necessities, sometimes we end up with far more than we had originally planned.
The kids need bikes, scooters, skateboards, and let’s not forget about roller blades. And then there’s all the things you pack ‘just in case’.
Not only does over-preparing – and packing – your car result in more work unloading when you return from your trip, but there are also some important safety implications that can arise.
Some can even land you a fine. Here’s what you need to know before you load the car for your next trip.
Most luggage should be stowed in the boot of the car for both convenience and safety.
Loose items, like sporting equipment, should be stored in the boot where they can’t become dangerous projectiles if there’s a crash. Can you imagine the damage a soccer ball launching through the car at 100km/hr might cause?
Even an unrestrained tissue box and mobile phones can cause harm to passengers if the car suddenly stops. For items like these, make the most of your glovebox, centre console, side of the door, or even under the seat.
And if you have a station wagon without an internal barrier or a Ute without a cover, loose items should be secured.
When it comes to stacking luggage in the boot, place heavier objects at the bottom. This not only helps from a stability point of view, but also prevents more fragile goods from being damaged. Items should be packed at a reasonable height and stable, to avoid objects moving around while driving.
RAA Car Advice Manager Andrew Clark advises that if you’re not packing a full boot, and if possible, try and stack your luggage in a way that doesn’t hinder your ability to reach important car accessories.
“Be mindful of where you place items that can make it difficult to access the spare wheel, jack or tools,” he says.
Don’t cram your car
Items packed in your car must be secure and shouldn’t obstruct any of the car’s controls, doors or windows, or restrict the driver’s vision, says Mr Clark says.
“Items also shouldn’t exceed the weight carrying ability or specifications of the vehicle,” he says.
You could be fined if you don’t have proper control of the vehicle or are driving distracted.
If you’re caught driving without proper control of your vehicle, you could receive a $201 fine, plus a $92 Victims of Crime Levy, while driving a motor vehicle without having a clear view could result in a $287 fine in South Australia.
There are also weight limitations to your car, otherwise known as gross vehicle mass (GVM), as specified by your vehicle’s manufacturer. The GVM is the maximum legal weight your vehicle can be, including passengers, fuel, accessories like roof racks and packed equipment. This can generally be found in your vehicle’s handbook.
If your vehicle is over its load limit it impacts performance, braking capabilities, handling and the vehicle’s suspension capabilities.
Filling the car to the brim so you can’t see out of the back window is discouraged.
“Good visibility is always important,” Mr Clark says.
“Towing a caravan or driving a commercial vehicle are about the only valid reasons visibility out of the back window might be restricted.”
Choose carefully when storing items inside the cabin
If the boot is full and you need to store items inside the car’s cabin, make sure you can still adjust your seat correctly and none of the clutter gets in the way to avoid nasty consequences in a crash.
“If there aren’t any rear passengers, only light items should be stowed on the back seat, such as pillows, bedding and clothing,” Mr Clark says.
“Don’t pack luggage around passengers’ feet. This area should always be kept clear to help protect feet and limbs if there’s a crash.”
Don’t pile roof racks
Roof racks are a handy accessory, but it’s not as simple as piling things on top of your car and driving off. It’s your responsibility to ensure that the luggage is packed safely and isn’t a danger to you or other road users.
“Only have lightweight items stored up on roof racks, as it will alter the vehicle’s centre of gravity and handling characteristics,” Mr Clark says.
According to the South Australia Police Road Safety Centre, items must be properly secured using approved restraints and the maximum rear overhang may be either 60 per cent of the wheelbase or 3.7m, whichever is less.
Front overhang must not be more than 1.2m from the front of your vehicle, while the maximum length of a load can’t exceed 12.5m. Your load must also not protrude more than 150mm on either side of the vehicle and the overall width be no more than 2.5m or less.
If you don’t have roof racks but want to transport long items like a surfboard, they shouldn’t stick out of the window.
If you’re caught with an item hanging more than 150mm out of the window, you could be fined $244 plus a $92 Victims of Crime Levy.
Secure your load
If you plan on transporting bikes and other recreational equipment in a trailer, use proper restraints like tie-down straps and use a good-quality cargo net to help secure the load. Alternatively, using bike racks could be useful, but it’s important to familiarise yourself with the rules and regulations.
Leave gas bottles at home
While it’s great to fire up the barbecue, it’s best to leave the gas bottle at home when going on a road trip.
According to Mr Clark, gas bottles shouldn’t be carried inside your car. If there’s a crash, steel camping gas bottles are flammable and can become a deadly projectile.
While it’s legal to carry an LPG bottle, there are strict requirements that need to be followed when they’re being transported. They should always be upright and placed in a secure isolated area.
If you want to take a gas bottle on your camping trip, Mr Clark suggests taking extra care.
“Take your 4kg bottle for camping, but maybe leave the bigger 9kg barbecue bottle at home, or for the caravan mount,” he says.
“A leaky gas bottle valve or tap could be a high risk too if LPG were to leak inside the vehicle.”