It’s not unusual to take our constant companions on the road. From taking them to the vet, running errands, or even going on a joyride or road trip, cats and dogs often find themselves trailing along with their owners in the car.
However, just like riding without cats and dogs in the vehicle, safe driving involves a level of preparation and the ability to refrain from distractions. Here is a list of tips to keep in mind next time someone drives with pets.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identifies three main types of distractions that could occur while driving:
- Visual distraction
- Manual distraction
- Cognitive distraction
Visual distraction occurs when the driver takes their eyes off the road. Manual distraction is when the driver takes their hands off the steering wheel. Lastly, cognitive distraction is when the driver takes their mind off the task of driving. Anyone or all three of these distractions could transpire when driving with a pet in the car.
Being distracted while driving in any way (including being distracted by a pet) could lead to a collision. That is why one should consistently enforce safe driving practices, especially when traveling with cats or dogs in the car.
Pet Safety While Driving
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,142 people experienced fatalities due to distracted driving. Some examples of distracting behaviors that lead to collisions include interacting with a child, engaging with the navigation system or media devices, and interacting with a pet.
Loose animals in vehicles tend to lead to high rates of distracted driving. According to a 2010 American Automobile Association survey, two out of three pet owners participate in distracting behaviors like feeding, petting, or playing when traveling with dogs in the car.
To combat distracted driving, some state lawmakers have passed laws regarding traveling with pets in the car. These include regulations about how to properly restrain the pets while they are traveling in the car to reduce the risk of human or animal injury when the vehicle brakes suddenly. For example, according to a study conducted by the travel insurance company Allianz, if a car going 25 mph gets into a collision, an unrestrained dog may project forward at a force equal to 40 times its weight.
Additionally, certain states have enacted laws prohibiting dogs from sitting on a driver's lap. For example, Arizona drivers may be charged under existing distracted driving laws if they drive with an animal in their lap.
Preparing for the Trip
To avoid stress and worry when taking road trips with pets, drivers should consider preparing both the vehicle and the animals before hitting the road. Here are some preparation tips on how to travel with pets:
- Start with short drives: Giving the pet some time to get used to taking trips in the car may help make the animal feel more comfortable over time. If they do, pet owners may gradually increase the length of the drives and time they spend in the car to improve their comfort and experience.
- Ensure the pet is safely secured: One of the safest ways to travel with a dog in the car can be to place them in a well-ventilated travel crate or carrier. Secure the crate to avoid it from moving in the event of a sudden stop. Alternatively, secure the pet with a harness that attaches to the safety belt buckle. However, these have not been proven to prevent injuries during a collision.
- Keep pet documents handy: Having copies of the pet’s insurance information on hand if the unfortunate happens and they are injured during the trip could help owners keep their pets safe. It may also be useful to have a list of veterinary clinics along the route.
Tips While in the Car
Pets don’t always enjoy trips in the car. They might become anxious or suffer from motion sickness. In these cases, one can obtain a mild sedative or homeopathic remedy to assist the pet in those instances when they need to be in the car. Anxious pets could also be calmed if they covered (or the carrier) with a blanket. A toy could also be used to calm an anxious dog.
Another way to make pets more comfortable during a long drive is to stop often to give the animal a chance to walk around and do their business. These rest stops can also be used to provide them with food and water. Stops may need to occur more frequently if water or food are not readily in reach of the pet while in the car. It can also be valuable to keep any identification documents, leashes, and collars for when it is time to exit the vehicle.
Another tip drivers may consider is to avoid leaving pets in parked cars, even if it is for a few minutes. The internal temperature of vehicles can rise by as much as 20° F in only ten minutes or increase by 30° F in 20 minutes. This can happen even on days when the outside temperature is only 70° F.
Gerber Collision May Be Able to Help in the Event of Collision
Having a pet along for a drive could be an incredible adventure. However, pets are generally loving and needy animals. Thus, they can create distractions when traveling. In the unfortunate event of a collision, our team at Gerber Collision is standing by, ready to help.