I’ve just read an interesting post at Making Light about seat-belts .
In Australia seat-belt use is mandatory, you can be fined for failing to wear one – and the police (who help clean up the mess when someone dies on the road) are apparently quite aggressive about enforcement. Even aside from the legal requirement the use of seat-belts is fairly ingrained in Australian culture, people tend to use them even when they won’t get caught.
One of the things I like to do in my spare time is to take unused computer gear from IT companies (which they regard as rubbish) and give it to home users for recreational and educational use. Due to that and my work for some smaller IT companies I’ve helped many people load computer gear into their private cars and observed that most people will not take adequate care unless I coerce them.
A CRT monitor tends to be large and heavy, you wouldn’t want to get hit in the back of the head with one at 60Km/h. With some combinations of monitor and car you can fit a monitor in the front passenger foot-well, but usually the only place a monitor will fit is the back seat. The correct thing to do is to use the seat-belt to strap the monitor in place. It’s most likely that the monitor stand (the only part that allows a seat-belt to be attached) would snap off in the event of a serious crash – but this would at least slow the monitor down. Also don’t put the monitor directly behind your seat if you can avoid it, put it behind the passenger seat. In a collision monitor might be able to push through your seat and cause you a back injury.
Between 1992 and 2006 there were 78,000 acute computer-related injuries treated in US hospital emergency rooms . The number of injuries caused by monitors peaked at 37% of the total in 2003 – this was largely due to monitors falling on people. Even without the speed of a car a monitor can be a dangerous projectile.
Hard drives have a lot of potential to cause damage, they are dense, hard, and the corners often aren’t rounded. Storing them above the back seat behind the driver’s head (as a friend once tried to do) is a really bad idea. Mythbusters showed that a box of tissues isn’t going to kill you in a crash, but a hard drive is much more dangerous. The typical car glove box can store a few drives. If you need to transport a box full then the front passenger foot well is a reasonable place. If your car rolls then that would suck, but it seems that people usually die when they roll their car anyway so just try not to do that.
A serious server (EG 2RU or bigger rack-mount) typically weighs 30Kg or more and is solidly constructed. The size and mass of such a machine makes it extremely difficult to safely store inside a car. The ideal place is the boot, but if that isn’t an option then behind the passenger seat is the next best option.
One final issue that I’ve been wondering about is the safest option for laptops that are in use in a moving car. A 3Kg Thinkpad would have to hurt if it hit you in the back of the head at 60Km/h. The child-seat attachments are solid anchor points that can be used for other things. I wonder if a laptop security cable could be attached to one of the child seat points. According to an exhibit at a science museum I can throw a tennis ball at 115Km/h, so I presume that laptop security cables are designed not to break when someone swings the laptop at that speed. Therefore if a car was driving at a legal speed in Australia before crashing then a laptop security cable should be able to stop the laptop. Preventing the cable from injuring the passenger on the way would be the difficult part.