It’s not uncommon to see a dog riding shotgun, head out the window, tongue and fur waggling in the wind. People love to travel, and they love their pets.
In fact, nearly 56 percent of respondents in a recent AAA survey reported driving with their dog at least monthly in the past year. But the findings also point to some of the distractions and risks associated with pet travel. Drivers admitted to…
- Petting while driving (52 percent)
- Using hands or arms to hold a pet in place while braking (23 percent)
- Using hands or arms to block dog from front seat (19 percent)
- Reaching into the back seat to interact (18 percent)
- Allowing pets to sit in their lap or holding them (17 percent)
- Giving food or treats (13 percent)
AAA adds that looking away from the road for just two seconds doubles your risk of a crash, which could take a heavy toll on you, your vehicle, and unrestrained pets. PetEducation.com points out other risks, like pets getting underfoot and causing a crash by blocking the brake pedal. So what can you do to protect yourself and your furry friends? Here are some tips:
- Don’t let dogs stick their heads out. While we mentioned this is common, it’s not necessarily smart – if there’s enough room for the head, there might be enough room for the pet to jump out when startled. Even if the fall doesn’t seriously injure them, incoming traffic probably will. There’s also the danger of low-hanging branches and other objects, plus sudden stops or collisions.
- Use seatbelts for pets. People are required to use them, and pets deserve the same protection. Invest in a pet restraint or pet carrier of some kind. They usually run less than $40. Even with these, don’t put the pet in the front seat. If an airbag inflates, it could injure or suffocate the animal.
- Tag your pet. Never take your pets on a trip without a collar or tag that identifies them. These are cheap – and better than putting up lost pet posters around town. Even untagged collars let people know the pets have owners, and aren’t strays.
- Never leave pets unattended. Cars heat up fast, and pets (like small children) don’t take heat well. On top of that, strangers may want to interact with your pet and could get bitten, putting you with a potential lawsuit.
- Make sure pets get breaks too. When you make a pit stop to relieve yourself and stretch your legs, make sure your pet gets a few minutes to do the same, as well as some personal attention. A calm and happy pet is less distracting than a whining or stressed one.
- Bring food, water, and other supplies. If you’re out for more than a joyride, make sure to plan for enough food and water for the whole trip, as well as treats. Don’t overfeed your pet, because unlike kids, they don’t understand “pee before you go.” Stick to food they like to reduce the likelihood of cleaning up vomit stains later: Strange foods on top of the stress (or excitement) of travel can cause digestive problems. On that note, be sure to bring wipes or paper towels. A spare leash and collar may come in handy too.