Piling stuff on the rooftop of your car is not the same thing as loading stuff into the trunk of your car. It is dangerous to pile a large load on the roof of your car for the simple reason that the rooftop is not meant to carry too much. Even if you place all the stuff inside a cargo box, it is still can be dangerous for you and dangerous for other road users.
According to official figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, debris flying off cars caused 51,000 crashes in 2010. These crashes led to 10,000 injuries and 440 fatalities. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety came up with startling figures in 2016. This organization noted that about 66.6% of debris related crashes are caused by unsecured load and items falling from vehicles. This study also added that improper maintenance was a factor in these accidents. Below are some things you should know about safely securing a load to the roof of your car.
Know Your Car’s Dynamic Rating vs. Your Car’s Dynamic Capacity
Every car has two rooftop weight limits. These are the dynamic rating and the static rating. The static rating refers to how much the car can hold when it is not in motion (static). The dynamic rating refers to what how much the car can (and should) carry when it is in motion. Contrary to what you think, the dynamic rating is not that much. On the average, most trucks, cars, and SUVs you see on the road have a limit of just 165 pounds. Different automobiles have different dynamic ratings.
The Toyota Rav4 is a four-wheel drive SUV. You probably expect this vehicle to have a relatively high dynamic rating, but it doesn’t. This SUV has a rating of just 100 pounds. There is no point in estimating static and dynamic ratings. The smart move is to consult your vehicle’s manual to determine the correct weight restrictions. You should also consider the weight and the shape of the cargo you are carrying on the roof of your car. If you load a mattress on the roof of your car, air can cause it to lift. This will make your car unstable and this may lead to an accident.
Using the Roof Rack
If you have a rack, this will help you in the sense that the weight is spread across the frame of the car. However, this does not necessarily mean your car will be able to carry more load when the car is moving. In fact, your roof rack means you will carry less stuff because you have to take the weight of the rack into account. Assuming your car has a rating of 160 pounds, for instance, and the roof rack has a 30-pound weight after you take away the 30 pounds, (weight of the roof rack) you can only carry 130 pounds on the roof of your car. This does not apply to only roof racks. It also applies to cross bars on the roof of your car.
When it comes to loading stuff on the roof of your car, it is always better to err on the side of caution. This means that you should never go above the lowest weight limit recommended by the manufacturers of the vehicle. Let us assume you have cargo that weighs 150 pounds. Your roof rack cross bars weigh 200 pounds and the rating of your roof is 100 pounds. The implication here is that you cannot load more than 100 pounds on that roof. It is even safer to limit yourself to cargo that weighs less than the recommended dynamic rating of your car.
Know the State Laws You are Traveling Through
We all know the popular expression: “Ignorance of the law is not an excuse”. Different states have different vehicle and traffic laws so if you are going out of your state, you will do well to make yourself familiar with laws of the states you are visiting. Only 15 American states have laws on improperly secured loads. However, in all 50 states, if things drop from your vehicle, you have broken the law. The penalty may range from a small fine to a huge fine or even a jail term in some cases. You do not want to get into legal trouble outside your state so get familiar with the laws elsewhere and save yourself a major inconvenience.
Learn How to Tie a Secure Knot
According to the experts at AAA, you need to ensure that you tie the load properly and secure larger objects directly to the body of the vehicle. It also makes sense to cover the load with a tarp so that you reduce the chances of anything flying off and endangering other road users. In addition, heavier objects should be placed inside the vehicle. Keep the cargo low and drive carefully because the navigation properties and braking characteristics might change if you have cargo on the roof of your car.
Carrying a Work Load on Your Vehicle
If your motor vehicle or trailer is transporting a sizable load, you must obey the rules. The rule, in this case, states that the said vehicle must have an amber strobe lamp in addition to a multidirectional lens. The load must be marked with a large and visible flag in bright red or orange colors. The lamp must operate day and night and the flag must be visible from the rear of the vehicle.
Watch out for Low Overhangs and Hazards
Finally, you should always watch out for overhangs especially in crowded cities. Measure the height of the load you are carrying and always have this at the back of your mind. Be careful in and around restaurants, parking garages, and bridges.
Remember that you are not driving under normal circumstances and make an extra effort to keep yourself and other road users safe. Be careful, be vigilant and be patient with other road users and you will not have any problem. In case you have ever been involved in a rooftop cargo car accident, just contact us and we will give you a free consultation. As an auto accident attorney with more than 30 years experience, you can count on us to fight for your rights.