We’re willing to bet you've never given any, or at least very little, consideration to the danger of carrying cargo in a hatchback, minivan or SUV without physical separation between the luggage compartment and the passenger compartment. If you brake suddenly, or you're in a front-end collision, your cargo can become a heavy projectile and injure you or your passengers. You should always strap down cargo inside of your vehicle.
Secure your cargo
A 2012 study from the United States Government Accountability Office found "in 2010 unsecured loads and road debris caused 440 deaths and 10,000 injuries in more than 51,000 incidents." Even poorly secured cargo on the roof of a vehicle can cause a serious danger to other vehicles and pedestrians. According to United States Department of Transportation research, "at 55 miles per hour, an object weighing just 20 pounds that falls from a vehicle strikes with the impact of half a ton."
You might think hauling an unsecured item will be safe as long as you're not going too far or if you make certain to drive "extra carefully." But this is no better than old excuses for not wearing a seat belt such as, "I’m just going around the corner," or, "I'm not getting on the highway. Just as you would secure yourself or your child with a seat belt, you must tie down any load no matter how far or how fast you plan to drive. -- US DoT
Below, you'll find that we've embedded footage from the Dynamic Test Center of Switzerland, which clearly demonstrates the danger caused by unsecured cargo.
Not sure how to secure your load?
The cargo compartment in your vehicle will have any number of locations meant for rope, straps or bungee cords. If you have many items, you can use a simple tarp like wrapping paper. Place your tarp down first, place your cargo on the tarp, then fold the tarp over your cargo. The tarp can then be secured with straps.
Many manufacturers will also include with your vehicle cargo compartment dividers, cargo nets and cargo baskets. You can also find a number of aftermarket solutions at automotive stores.