The key to preventing these problems is to get dogs off drivers’ laps and out of the front seat. Ideally, they should be in the back seat in a safely secured crate or restrained by a seat belt, tether or harness. As Selter notes “We buckle up our kids, we buckle up ourselves and even our groceries. Why are we not buckling up our pets?”
Currently, no federal or state law requires pets to be restrained inside a vehicle, and of the 50 states, only Hawaii prohibits motorists from driving with pets on their laps. At the local government level, Troy, Michigan, passed a “no dogs on drivers’ laps” ordinance that took effect on January 1, 2011.
• Keep dogs in the back seat and make it a habit to restrain them with a pet harness or tether, or in a crate; if using a harness, choose one that’s easy to put on the dog.
• Tether crates to be sure they’re secure, since crates themselves can also become projectiles.
• Make sure the pet restraint you select has been crash-tested in the United States. (Some are tested outside the U.S., so different standards may apply.)
• Pet travel has increased 300 percent since 2005.
• Eighty-four percent of dog owners surveyed in a recent AAA study said they do not restrain their pets in their vehicles, 39 percent said they’d never considered using a restraint and 29 percent said they only take their dogs on short trips.
• In 2009, distracted drivers, including those interacting with their pets, caused accidents that killed 5,474 people and injured 448,000, according to police and government statistics.