TAMPA, Fla. – Traveling with a pet is becoming more popular as hotels, restaurants and destinations are offering more pet-friendly options, according to AAA.
A recent AAA Consumer Pulse survey found more than three in four pet owners enjoy bringing their furry companions for a car ride. Yet more than one in three admitted to never restraining their pet while riding in the car. This can lead to added distractions for the driver and increased dangers for all passengers, including pets, AAA officials said.
Dangers of traveling with a pet
Almost two in five pet owners said that they do not use a pet restraint because they primarily take short trips with their pet. However, in the case of a crash, a loose pet will be thrown around the vehicle regardless of trip length – a danger to passengers as well as the animal, officials said.
“A 10-pound dog involved in a crash at only 30 mph becomes a 300 pound projectile, while an unrestrained 80-pound dog will exert approximately 2,400 pounds of force,” said Amy Stracke, managing director of Traffic Safety Advocacy for AAA. "This poses a serious risk of injury or even death for either your pet or anyone else in its path, reinforcing the importance of restraining your four-legged friend every time they are in the car."
One in six pet owners admitted to becoming distracted by their pet while driving, and the majority of drivers admitted to engaging in risky behavior while behind the wheel; petting their animal was the most common activity cited (42%). Other distracting behaviors drivers admitted to included allowing their pet to freely move from seat to seat (26%), allowing their pet to sit in their lap (26%), giving food or water to their pet (16%) and taking a photo of their pet while driving (11%).
According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, taking your eyes of the road for two seconds doubles your risk of a crash. Attending to your pet while driving could easily take your eyes off the road for more than two seconds, officials said.
“These behaviors can distract the driver and increase the risk of a crash," AAA spokesman Josh Carrasco said. “Using a pet restraint can aid in limiting distractions and help protect pets and passengers. A restraint will not only limit distractions, but also protect you, your pet and other passengers in the event of a crash or sudden stop."
How to travel with a pet
Keep the following tips in mind so that everyone, including your animal friends, has an enjoyable and safe trip:
- For safety reasons, pets should be confined to the back seat, either in a carrier or a harness attached to the car’s seat belt. This will prevent distractions as well as protect the animal and other passengers in the event of a collision.
- Never allow your pet to ride in the bed of a pickup truck. It’s illegal in some states; the pet also can jump out or be thrown out of the truck bed. Harnessing or leashing it to the truck bed is not advisable either: if it tries to jump out, the pet could be dragged along the road or the restraint could become a noose.
- Avoid placing animals in campers or trailers.
- Don’t let your dog stick its head out the window, no matter how enjoyable it seems. Road debris and other flying objects can injure delicate eyes and ears, and the animal is at greater risk for severe injury if the vehicle should stop suddenly or be struck.
- AAA recommends that drivers stop every 2 hours to stretch their legs and take a quick break from driving. Your pet will appreciate the same break. Plan to visit a rest stop every 4 hours or so to let him have a drink and a chance to answer the call of nature.
- Never leave an animal in a parked car, even if the windows are partially open. Even on pleasant days the temperature inside a car can soar to well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in less than 10 minutes, placing your pet at risk for heatstroke and possibly death. On very cold days, hypothermia is a risk. Also, animals left unattended in parked cars can be stolen.
To assist motorists who plan to take their pets on a summer road trip, AAA has released a newly updated Traveling with Your Pet: The AAA PetBook. Now in its 18th edition, the guide features more than 15,000 AAA approved and diamond rated hotels, restaurants and campgrounds that welcome travelers and their furry family members.