Drivers are putting their dogs’ lives at risk

11th September 2019

All pet owners would be devastated if anything happened to their beloved companions. However, many drivers are taking a massive risk – by simply not securing their dogs in their cars.

Experts estimate that if a car was to crash at a speed of 25mph, an unrestrained dog could be projected forward at a force equal to 40 times its weight. Despite this, a survey conducted by Ford with 1,000 dog-owning drivers, showed that a huge 45% do not secure their dog every journey.

This was due to their dogs not liking being strapped down or crated during a drive (29%), seeing it as a ‘pointless’ exercise on short trips (25%) and not being able to fit a crate - recognised as one of the safest ways to transport pets – into their car (17%).

25% even admitted they have considered the dangers of not securing their dog - but have decided to do it regardless. Whilst most of us don’t expect to get in a crash, it’s vital our pets are properly secured for safety, just as we routinely strap ourselves in with seatbelts.

In addition to being prepared for a crash, it's also vital they are properly secured in the car, so they're not a distraction to the driver. A worrying 35% of those surveyed admitted to being distracted by their pet whilst driving and 10% have experienced a near miss whilst driving due to the distraction.

And whilst it might look fun and provide dogs with fresh air, a total of 37% of drivers who do not secure their dogs have let them stick their head out of the car window while in motion – exposing them to potential injuries.

Rule 57 of the Highway Code states: "When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly.”

Whilst disobeying this rule does not carry any direct penalty, drivers can still be pulled over and slapped with a £1,000 fine if police believe the pet is distracting them or they're driving without proper control. If you're seen to be failing to drive with due care and attention, the fine could be up to £5,000 and land you with nine points if the case goes to court. Extreme cases could also see a driving ban and a compulsory re-test.

Keeping your pet safe whilst driving

  • Keep them restrained and safely secured: Use a seat belt harness, pet carrier or dog cage to secure your dog in the back of the car. If they are not used to being restrained, try some regular short journeys to get them used to it. This should help keep them calmer and less disruptive when you're on the road.
  • Keep them relaxed: bring something familiar, such as their blanket or favourite toy to keep them calm and preoccupied.
  • Take regular breaks: If it’s a long journey, plan some spots beforehand where you can take a break to allow you both to stretch and recharge.
  • Keep them hydrated: make sure they have access to fresh water. There are plenty of non-spill bowls on the market which are perfect for the car. 
  • Keep them cool: Use reflective window shades in hot weather and never leave your pet in a hot car. Having bottles of water in the car will also help in case your pet overheats and needs to be rapidly cooled in an emergency.
  • Avoid sickness: If your dog is fearful of the car or gets carsick, try and avoid any food for two hours prior to starting a long car journey.

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