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Vehicle Safety – Proper Travel Tips

As pet parents we adore our dogs, many of us considering them part of the family. We enjoy spending time with them, so often times we bring them with us on car rides. Our dogs get to accompany us down the road to the store, to the park, to the pet store, out of town, and some lucky dogs get to accompany their human companion to work! Most dogs love going for car rides and we humans enjoy bringing them with us. However, having an unrestrained dog in our vehicle is dangerous for us, our dog, and other people on the road.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released information stating that in 2013 alone there were 5,687,000 car crashes, with 1,591,000 injuries and 32,719 fatalities. The National Safety Council has reported that over 2.5 million rear-end collisions occur every year. That is a lot of car accidents! How many of these wrecks happened because of a brief distraction to the driver? How many of us find ourselves being distracted, even for a second or two, by our beloved pets riding in the car with us? 60% of pet parents reported driving while being distracted momentarily by their dog; 52% of pet parents have petted their dog while driving; 17% of drivers allow their dog to sit in their lap while driving; 13% of drivers admitted to giving food to their dogs while driving; and 4% of drivers acknowledged playing with their dog while driving. That is a staggering amount of distracted drivers on the road due to just our dogs alone.

According to a survey done by the American Automobile Association, over 80% of dog pet parents drive with their pets in the car. Considering there are approximately 43.3 million households with pets in America, that is a vast amount of people on the road with dogs. Of that 80%, only 16% of those people transporting their dogs use proper safety restraints. For more information about these statistics, click here.

Did you know that an unrestrained dog becomes a projectile in a car accident? In a vehicle crashing at a speed of just 25mph, an unrestrained dog can be projected forward at a force equal to 40 times its weight. Without a crash tested safety restraint, that is a huge safety issue for the driver, any passengers, and, of course, the dog.

Not only does a loose dog pose a safety issue to the people inside of the vehicle, but a dog that has just experienced such a trauma or that is injured poses a safety risk for any first responders or well meaning citizens attempting to assist the driver and passengers of the crash. Even the most mellow of pets can turn fearful and reactive after such a terrifying event and may lash out at anybody going near it, including its very own pet parents. Having a dog that is restrained will help first responders to get to the humans in the vehicle without fear of getting bitten by a terrified and possibly injured dog. Since dogs act unpredictably when frightened and injured, they also pose as a financial and legal responsibility. Even after having an accident, you could be held responsible for any injuries caused by your dog, regardless of whether or not your dog is normally friendly and well-behaved. An unrestrained dog can also get loose from the vehicle and cause a secondary car crash, making an already terrible situation even worse! The damages from this type of accident are not likely to be covered by your insurance.

Then there is the matter of what happens to your dog during the crash. To start with, airbags are lethal to a unrestrained dog in the front seat. Your dog could be flung around in the interior of your car or fly through the windshield, causing bone fractures and breaks, muscle and ligament tears, and/or internal injuries. At the very least, you have a dog experiencing shock – which can be a very dangerous dog as we have already discussed.

So what can you do to restrain your dog in the safest ways possible? Well, there are a few options for you, these being the most common:

  • A crash tested safety harness or seat belt. They have different types available online and in most pet stores.
  • A hard-sided or soft-sided crate or a carrier that is properly restrained. There are even travel versions available to provide a better sense of security for dogs that are afraid to travel.
  • They have pet vehicle seats available for our smaller furry friends.
  • Vehicle pet barriers are also an option, although not as safe for your dog being that it does not restrain your dog, it merely keeps them in the backseat.

As ardent adorers of our furry best friends, it is up to us to provide as much safety and security for them as we possibly can. Even if you are just driving down the street with your dog, it is your responsibility to provide that same level of safety as though you were driving cross country with your beloved dog.