Drivers are putting their lives, the lives of passengers and their pets at risk by failing to strap their dogs into their cars, a new study has found.
The poll of 1,000 dog-owning motorists, commissioned by car manufacturer Ford, found nearly half (45 per cent) do not secure their pet when they drive.
And more than half of those allow their dog to roam free in the vehicle on every single journey.
Experts believe an unrestrained dog can develop projection forces of 40 times its body weight in a crash at 25mph.
Insurance claims can be invalidated if pets are not safely restrained in the vehicle.
‘Pointless on short journeys’
The survey found 29 per cent say their dog ‘doesn’t like being strapped down’ or crated during a drive, and 25 per cent claimed it’ was ‘pointless’ on a short journey.
Another 17 per cent said they could not fit a dog crate – recognised as one of the safest ways to transport pets – into their car.
Ford engineer Rene Berns worked on the design of the new Focus Estate and owns Australian Shepherd Emil, he said: ‘Most people would be heartbroken if anything ever happened to their beloved dog – and nobody expects to crash.
‘But it is vital that, for everyone’s benefit, full safety precautions are taken when transporting our four-legged friends.’
Other ways to keep your dog safe in the car include seatbelt harness, pet carrier or dog guard.
The study also found 35 per cent of dog owners have been distracted by their pet when they’re meant to be paying attention to the road
A total of 37 per cent of drivers who do not restrain their dogs have let their pets stick their head out of the car window while in motion.
And incredibly, a tenth of respondents have watched in horror as their dog leapt out of an open window while driving – with six in 10 pets being injured or even, in some cases, dying.
Think of your pet’s safety
Dog training expert Graeme Hall, aka ‘The Dogfather’, said: ‘If you have a pet, please think of its safety the way you would any other member of the family.
‘I always carry my dog Lily in the boot in her crate. She can comfortably move around and everyone’s safe. I believe that’s the best solution.’
Dog crates are recognised as one of the safest ways to transport your dog in a car. SWNS
The study also found almost a quarter have had their dog bark loudly and unexpectedly while driving, and one in 20 have had their pooch turn their car into a mobile toilet while on the road.
One in four dog owners even admitted they have considered the fact that driving with their dog unsecured could potentially put their lives at risk – but do it anyway.
And a tenth have had a near miss while driving because their dog distracted them while it was unsecured in the vehicle, according to the research conducted through OnePoll.
But Brits would be willing to drive almost 40 miles with a dog loose in their vehicle, being most likely to place it on the back seat before letting it roam free.
Fine risk and invalid insurance
Highway code rule 57 says dogs,and other pets, must be “suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly”
If police deem a driver has been driving without proper control because of their pet they can be hit with a £200 fine, rising to up to £2,500 if they are convicted of driving without due care and attention. They can also receive up to nine penalty points. The standard fine for a driver failing to wear their own seatbelt is £100.
What’s more, if you are in an accident, your insurance might not cover you according to Amanda Stretton, motoring editor at Confused.com:’Driving with an unrestrained pet can also invalidate your car insurance, meaning having to personally pay out for repairs in the event of a claim.’
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