Driving with your pets: Safety tips, alarming statistics

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Many people enjoy taking their pets along for a car ride, but not keeping your furry friends secured or in the right place of the car can hurt both them and you.

Brian Bennett spent time Sunday morning with his 1-year-old black Lab/Australian shepherd mix Django at Happy Tails Dog Park in Lower Paxton Township.

“He stays in the back seat. He’s not allowed in my lap,” Bennett said. “Of course, he’d be too big. I wouldn’t be able to see.”

Bennett is already on the right track. PennDOT says driving with a dog in your lap is one of the worst things you can do. Airbags can kill a dog riding in the front passenger’s or driver’s seat.

“You can go and buy harnesses for your pet in order to have them in the back seat and that’s the preferred area,” PennDOT spokeswoman Fritzi Schreffler said. “You can get a crate. You can get one that has a slot for it so that you can secure that.”

A car harness can help your pet travel more safely.
A car harness can help your pet travel more safely.

Schreffler also said to bring along toys, treats, and a water bowl for your pets. Don’t let them put their heads out the window. The wind can blow pieces of debris into their eyes and damage their mucus membranes. They can also get hit by flying objects.

“They get distracted and then you’re going to be distracted by them,” she said. “If they see a rabbit, if they see another dog, and they’re already partway out the car, what’s to stop them from going out of the car?”

The AAA PetBook can help you find pet-friendly hotels and attractions. AAA reports 52 percent of people pet their dog behind the wheel, and 13 percent admit to giving their dog food or treats while driving. Only 16 percent of pet owners use some kind of restraint with their dogs while driving.

“Even at 30 miles an hour, you take 30 times 50, and that’s the amount of force that dog now has going forward or flying around inside your vehicle,” Schreffler said.

That means if you crash at 30 miles per hour with a dog that weighs 50 pounds, it could become a flying projectile of 1,500 pounds.

“We have to get where we’re going safely. If we don’t get there safely, both us, we don’t get to go for our walk or our run or where ever we’re going,” Bennett said.

Some other tips from PennDOT include:

  • Keep your dog on a leash with ID tags if you get separated. This should include a phone number. Their microchip information should be up to date.
  • Don’t drive with your dog in a truck bed. It can go flying from it and burn its paws. At least 100,000 dogs die each year due to riding in a truck bed, according to the American Humane Association.
  • Make sure your dog gets water on the ride. You can buy a collapsible water bowl.
  • Never leave pets in a hot car. It can quickly heat up and become deadly.


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