Dog-Safe Driving

July 30th, 2013

Ride Safety

Tips to make traveling by automobile with your pet a more enjoyable experience for everyone!

Sensible drivers buckle in themselves and their children before starting the motor. But what about their dog’s safety? Many drivers simply command their pets to jump into the backseat, the pickup’s cargo bed or even onto their laps. Lap dogs they should never be. In fact, according to safety experts, dogs shouldn’t be anywhere near our laps when we’re driving. But many drivers ignore the safety risks and allow their dogs to roam freely in cars.

That can be a big mistake, says Dr. Kimberly May, of the American Veterinary Medical Association in Schaumburg, Illinois. “Even a low-speed crash can cause injury to unrestrained dogs,” she says. “Depending on what structures they hit, dogs can suffer broken ribs, broken legs or eye injuries. They can hit the windshield or be thrown outside of the car. In a crash, the dog could be suffocated or crushed by a deployed airbag or thrown into the windshield.”

When You’re Behind the Wheel, Your Pet Should Be Secured

The best restraint for dogs is a good harness and a seatbelt. A properly secured crate is a close second — but crates can have drawbacks, too. “If the crate is too big for a dog, the dog can still be hurt slamming against the sides of the crate, even in a low-speed crash,” she says.

Dangerous for Drivers

Of course, injuries to dogs aren’t the only reason to properly restrain four-legged automobile passengers. They can put humans at risk, too. In an August 2010 survey by AAA, nearly a third of the dog-owning drivers admitted they’d been distracted by their dogs and 21 percent allowed their dogs to sit in their lap. Five percent played with their pets as they drove.

The exact number of accidents caused each year by such dogs is unknown, but Paws to Click, which seeks to educate drivers about riding with unrestrained dogs, puts the number at about 30,000 accidents annually. In addition, the danger posed to humans by an unrestrained pet can be big even if the pet isn’t. According to a AAA study, a 10-pound dog would strike at 50 times its weight in a crash at 50 mph.

Outside Dangers

And don’t even think about letting dogs ride with their heads out the window, even if they’re restrained. Dogs with their heads hanging out of the window are at risk of injury to their eyes, nose, ears, mouth and face from airborne debris.
As dangerous as riding unrestrained inside a vehicle can be, doing so in the bed of a pickup can be even worse because animals can jump or be thrown at high speed and are at risk of severe injury, including critical multiple fractures and abrasions.

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