The AAA recently surveyed pet owners to determine how frequently they drove with their pets in the car and to examine their driving habits when a pet was present. Not surprisingly, 56 percent of the respondents answered they drive with their dogs at least once a month. What was surprising, however, was how often those pet owners engaged in behaviors that distracted them from driving safely.
Unsafe at Any Speed
As reported in the survey, 52 percent of the people polled said they pet their dog while driving; 23 percent hold their dogs or use their arms to restrain their dogs when applying the brakes; and 19 percent use their hands or arms to keep their pets from climbing into the front seat. Although 83 percent said they knew an unrestrained dog in a moving car can be dangerous, only 16 percent reported that they used a pet restraint.
Your Safety as Well as Your Dog’s
In a car accident, there are two crashes: the initial impact outside the car, and a second one inside the vehicle if there are unrestrained objects, passengers or pets. According to John Paul, AAA traffic safety manager, an unrestrained 10-pound dog in a crash at 30 mph will become a projectile exerting nearly 300 pounds of pressure against anyone or thing it hits. An unrestrained 80-pound animal in the same crash will exert 2,400 pounds and become a virtual missile endangering the lives of the driver and passengers.
There is no denying that it is often hard enough to get passengers to buckle in, much less having to secure a dog. But consider that in addition to becoming a projectile, an unrestrained dog can block or move the steering wheel, gear shift or gas pedal/brake and cause you to have an accident. He can also interfere with rescue workers or get loose, run away and become lost.
Buckling Up Bowser
There are a number of options to consider when choosing a restraint system for your dog. Foremost in your decision is determining what works best for you and your pet. Here are the four major types of restraints:
Car Harness: A pet harness fits just like a regular harness but it is padded and made to withstand the impact of a crash. A tether attaches the harness to your vehicle’s seat belt and should be as short as possible to reduce the distance your dog is thrown about following impact.
Car Seat: Designed for small dogs and similar to a child’s car seat, this restraint places your dog at a higher level but still keeps her safe. When choosing a dog car seat be certain that it attaches securely to your car’s seat belts and that it has a harness that attaches safely to your dog.
Car Crate: If you opt for this restraint, make sure the crate is sturdy and that there are straps to keep the crate secured in your car. The last thing you want is your dog and the crate flying around in your vehicle. Keep in mind, however that in the event of a crash, your dog will be pitched around inside the crate.
Car Barrier: A car barrier is made to block off a portion of your vehicle. Barriers can be placed behind the front seat to keep your pet in the back seat or behind the back seat of an SUV to keep him in the cargo area. The main advantage of a barrier is that it keeps the dog in one place away from the driver, minimizing distraction and the chance your dog will become a projectile. It is important to note that a barrier will not protect your dog from being thrown around in his confined area. Better than no restraint at all, this type probably offers your dog the least amount of protection.
Your dog is a beloved member of your family. A dog car restraint protects all of you.
Sources: AAA Horizons; dogtime.com
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