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How to Drive Your Pets Around Safely

Car trips can be dangerous for both human and animal passengers. To avoid problems, use these tips for driving your pets around safely.

Pets are our family, our best friends and our loyal companions. They stand by our side or sit on our laps whenever we need them.

Unfortunately, they also sit on our laps when we need them not to, such as while we’re trying to drive a car. This can be dangerous for both human and animal passengers. To avoid problems, use these tips for driving your pets around safely.

Secure them properly

One of the best ways for pets to travel is in a crate, a more familiar environment than a car seat. In small vehicles, you can adjust the seat to fit a crate and, in SUV and hatchback vehicles, there is space in the back. No matter where, secure the crate in place with tethers, as shown in this YouTube video, to prevent injuries.

“Most people don’t know that a 65-pound dog, like a golden retriever, in only a 35-mile-per hour accident, becomes a 2700-pound projectile,” the video says.

Other products, such as nets and metal barriers, prevent furry companions from jumping into your lap or the passenger seat, where they can be hurt or killed by deploying airbags.

You can also secure animals by threading a seat belt through loops on harnesses, as this video demonstrates, although research any safety harness you buy, as a Center for Pet Safety study found many were lacking. Additionally, do not attach pets using their collars, as they could choke or suffer permanent neck damage.

Avoid open windows and truck beds

Pets hanging out of open windows or sitting in the back of trucks may seem like harmless practices, but animals can easily fall or jump out. They could also be hit by items outside the vehicle.

“Although most dogs love to stick their heads out open windows, the wind can seriously irritate mucous membranes and blow pieces of grit or other debris into their eyes,” according to American Humane. “Pets could also be seriously injured by objects as you drive down the road.”

The wind could also be an issue, as “the heavy airflow, especially if it is chilly, in general can damage the animal's respiratory system,” according to dmv.org.

As for trucks, about 100,000 dogs die every year in accidents because they were riding in truck beds, americanhumane.org says.

Leave them home

Assuage pet boredom with walks and playtime, and not potentially stressful car rides, which can be particularly aggravating to cats. Doing so will also help you avoid accidents, as an AAA survey found more than half of drivers with animals are distracted by, for example, petting dogs, holding dogs in place or preventing dogs from climbing into the front.

“These behaviors can distract the driver and increase the risk of a crash,” aaa.com says. “The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that looking away from the road for only two seconds doubles your risk of being in a crash.”

Elderly drivers, in particular, are more at risk of getting into accidents when they regularly drive with an animal, according to research published in Accident Analysis & Prevention journal.

Finally, because animals are not allowed inside many businesses, you may end up needing to leave them in the car.

“Leaving pets locked in cars is never safe,” according to the Humane Society of the United States. “But when the weather gets warmer, it can be deadly. High temperatures can cause irreparable organ damage and even death.”

If you have to take your animal with you, ensure they are safely restrained and can exit the car when you reach your destination. This message is proudly sponsored by WMC Tri-State Medical Network.

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