Many canines love a good car ride, but the majority of their human companions may need a lesson in pooch passenger safety. In an annual survey by AAA and Kurgo, a pet travel product company, dog owners revealed they often bring furry friends along for the ride, but they also admitted to behavior that would land them in the dog house.
In the past year, more than six out of 10 dog owners said they brought Spot, Snoop or Fido along for a car ride at least once a month, and 25 percent reported at least once a week. However, 84 percent of owners allowed their dogs to ride unrestrained.
"Pets, like people, need to be buckled up when riding in a car," said Linda Gorman, director of communications and public affairs for AAA Arizona. "Many pet owners may not realize the importance of pet passenger safety, but the reality is that dogs are just like any other passenger, and they can be seriously injured or hurt others if not properly restrained."
Some of the top reasons pet parents said they allowed hounds to go unharnessed were because:
• Their dog is calm and do not think he/she needs a restraint (42 percent)
• They never considered it (39 percent)
• They just take their dog on short trips (29 percent)
• They want their dog to be able to put his/her head out the window (12 percent)
In addition to neglecting to buckle up man's best friend, 65 percent of dog owners also admitted to engaging in distracting behavior while driving with their dog, such as petting their dog (52 percent), reaching in the backseat to interact with their dog (18 percent), or allowing their dog to sit in their lap (17 percent).
Two reported doggie distractions, however, could be mitigated through the use of a pet restraint:
• Nearly 25 percent of dog owners said they had used their hands or arms to hold their dog in place when braking.
• Nearly 20 percent said they have had to use their hands or arms to keep their dog from climbing from the backseat to the front seat.
"An unrestrained 10-pound dog in a crash at 50 mph can exert up to 500 pounds of force, and in a crash at only 30 mph, an 80-pound dog can create 2,400 pounds of force," Gorman said. "Regardless of a dog's behavior or a dog owner's reaction time to a hard brake, this is a clear threat to anyone in the vehicle, including the animal."
To keep pets and passengers safe, AAA encourages dog owners to take the following precautions when they bring the family pet on a car ride:
• Save petting and playtime for before or after the drive. Wait until you've arrived at your destination to give your dog any unnecessary attention. If he needs your immediate attention, safely pull off the road before tending to him.
• Determine the best place for your dog to "Sit!" and "Stay!" The front airbag system in your vehicle can be deadly to a small child, and the same is true for dogs, even if they are restrained.
Consider sitting your dog in the back seat or cargo area of your car where they can avoid crash hazards and you can focus on driving. Also, never allow your pet to ride in the bed of a pick-up truck. He can jump out or be thrown, even if tethered, endangering himself and others on the road.
• Buckle your pup up. Use a pet restraint system to keep your dog safe and secure in case of a collision, and also to keep them from roaming the car and distracting you from driving. Pet restraint products are available at local pet stores.
The AAA/Kurgo online study was conducted among a sample of 1,000 dog owners who have driven with their dog in the past 12 months.
AAA Arizona, the Arizona affiliate of AAA, provides automotive, insurance, vacation planning, discounts and financial services to more than 800,000 Arizona members. For more information on this topic, visit aaa.com