Pet Auto Safety: Safe Restraints for Pets Riding in CarsPublished January 4, 2012
It’s time for a serious mind shift among pet owners. Parents don’t let their children travel in the car without a seatbelt or with their head hanging out the window, and pet parents should follow that same rule while traveling with their pets.
Pet Auto Safety: What Distraction?
Chew on this: according to a 2010 study by the Highway Loss Data Institute, distracted driving is the number one cause of driving accidents. This precedes drunk driving, speeding, falling asleep at the wheel and aggressive driving. Distracted driving includes texting, adjusting the GPS, eating and distractions caused by pets.
Interestingly enough, large (more than 50 lbs.) and small dogs (under 20 lbs.) are most likely to travel with their owners. While large dogs often ride in the back seat or cargo area of the vehicle, it is not uncommon for an unrestrained animal—no matter their size— to jump over the seat to get a closer look at the squirrel that just darted across the street or the blonde “Lassie” walking down the sidewalk. You’ll probably agree that 20-50 plus pounds of excited, squirming, and most likely barking canine fun is way more than most people can handle with their hands free, much less with both hands on the steering wheel.
Unrestrained cats will typically try to hide underneath a seat or worse, under the driver’s feet! What could be more distracting than that?
It’s also not uncommon to see cute lap dogs “driving” in the laps of their owners. Some assume that since air bags provide protection for humans, they would provide the same protection for pets traveling in the car. But with air bags deploying at an average speed of 200 m.p.h., what cushions the impact of a crash for a human would be a bone-breaking force for an animal. If a front airbag deploys when you have a pet on your lap, the airbag will almost certainly kill the animal. Also, the force of the bag will push the pet into your abdomen, possibly causing human internal injuries.
When choosing the appropriate pet restraint, pet parents have several options. The right selection depends on the breed and size of your animal as well as the type of vehicle in which you will be traveling. Regardless of which pet restraint you choose, keeping a pet safe in the car, as it is with children, is a matter of properly adjusted safety equipment and positioning in the car.
Pet Auto Safety: Canine Seat Belt Systems
For large or small dogs, one of the safest ways to secure them inside a car is with a canine seat belt system.
Pet Auto Safety: Pet Car Seats
Pet car seats, similar to those used for children, are a viable option for use with smaller dogs.
Pet Autio Safety: Safety Barriers
Vehicle pet barriers are a great way to minimize distraction while you're driving, keeping you and your pets safe. Most auto pet barriers are adjustable and designed to fit in a variety of vehicles while many are made specifically for hatch back cars, SUVs and mini vans.
Pet Auto Safety: Pet Carriers
Pet carriers are an ideal option for traveling with cats and small dogs because they act not only as a form of protection, but also can provide a reassuring space for the pet within the vehicle.
Pet Auto Safety: Pet Crates
Should you desire the enclosed protection of a pet carrier for your larger dog, a crate may be the most suitable selection.
It is critical that pet owners are aware of and educated about the importance of properly securing pets in a pet crate, by a dog harness connected to a seat belt, or behind a divider to keep the pet in the cargo area of a wagon or SUV.
A note from the author:
I’m so delighted to be part of Toyota’s Pet Expert Team (P.E.T.), a new initiative launched by the automaker earlier this year. Myself and five other pet experts across the U.S. will be working with Toyota to educate pet parents about the importance of restraining pets in vehicles to save lives—both human and animal.
“Toyota is so serious about this cause that we formed a Pet Expert Team (P.E.T.) comprised of leading pet industry experts throughout the country to offer our customers pet travel safety tips and engage the local community to generate awareness surrounding pet automobile safety,” explained Bob Zeinstra, national manager, advertising, Toyota Motor Sales USA.
For our first assignment, Chilly (my one-year-old Labrador mix) and I set out on a holiday road trip last month, traveling from Tampa to Denver and back in our new, pet-friendly Toyota Sequoia, outfitted with multiple Kurgo pet restraint systems. Along the way, we tailgated at rest stops with fellow pet parents, talked about their travel experiences and we taught them how to ride more safely.
You can review our travel experiences on my blog: http://www.kristenlevine.com/blog/.
Meanwhile, make the rest of 2011 and 2012 the year you drive more safely with your pet and human passengers!