Car accidentThere are many dangerous driving distractions, including texting or talking on the cell phone while driving. However, driving with pets in the car is rarely cited as a danger to safe driving. Nevertheless, unrestrained pets in the car can prove to be as dangerous as other driving distractions.

In a recent survey conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and Kurgo, a pet safety product company, 80% of pet owners reported that they drive with their pets in the car on a regular basis: to run errands, go to the pet store, take road trips, or go to work. But only 17% reported that they use a pet restraint system during car rides–which can be a danger to both the pets and the people in the car. If your pet is unrestrained during car rides, they are most likely wandering around while you are driving. This can be very distracting, since you are probably busy telling your pet to stop barking, scratching the seats, or to sit down while driving–all of which takes your focus off of the road, creating a hazard for yourself and for other drivers. In addition, if your pet is unrestrained during a car ride they are more likely to be thrown with violent force from the car if an accident were to occur, increasing the chances that they are needlessly killed when a restraint system would have kept them more secure.

In choosing a pet restraint system to use during car trips, consider the following tips:

  • Use safety barriers throughout the car: there are two different sets of barriers for your car. One fits in the opening between your trunk and your back seat. These are most often metal or plastic bars. The other type of barrier sits in between the front seats and back seats. Most often these are made of netting, strong fabric or plastic. The first type of barrier is primarily meant to keep your dog secure in their seat, especially in the case of sudden stops or an accident that could project them out of the windows of the car. The second type of barrier is primarily for the driver’s safety, to keep a pet from suddenly leaping onto your lap while you’re driving.
  • Match dog size to proper seatbelt restraint: dog seat belts are adjustable straps that keep your dog in place while the car is moving. Again, like safety barriers, dog seat belts keep dogs from hitting against the hard panes of the car doors or from destroying the seats if they are agitated. Most importantly, they give you the peace of mind that you need, knowing that your pet is safe and won’t damage the inside of your car. However, it is important to match the seatbelt to the size of your dog: they come in many different sizes and are only effective if they are the right size.
  • Doggy booster seats are also safe and comfortable: seat belts aren’t always the best option to keep your dog secure in the car, especially if you have a small breed dog. It is easy for smaller dogs to jostle around even when they are belted in with a dog seatbelt. Instead, booster seats provide your small dog with a comfortable seat and more security. However, booster seats are not a good option for larger dogs. Rather, stick with the dog seatbelt.
  • When using a carrier, secure properly: if you are going to use a carrier for your dog or cat, make sure that it is properly secured inside of the car so that it won’t fly around in the case of a collision. In addition, buy the right size carrier for your pet so that they feel comfortable in a large enough carrier, but aren’t jostling around in one that is too big.