dog in car
The risk of dog day drivers

Driver distraction has become a major risk to all road users, especially vulnerable bike riders, but we have more to worry about than just people distracted by phones.

Research is showing that dogs in cars can also be a major source of driver inattention, but as well they block the view ahead, knock controls and have even leapt from car windows.

This would be know to most riders. Who hasn’t ridden past a vehicle and noticed the family dog inside, the centre of attention.

Sometimes the dog is in the driver’s lap, paws on the wheel, apparently ready to toot the horn at stray cats.

And the problem is not just that pets distract the drivers, it is that an unrestrained dog becomes a major problem if the driver has to take emergency action.

In a crash an unrestrained pet in the car can suddenly become a dangerous projectile – with tragic consequences for the animal and other occupants.

If a car crashes at a speed of 40km/h, an airborne dog can develop projection forces equaling 40 times its weight. For example, a German Shepherd weighing 35 kilos can impact with a force of 1,400 kilos.

In a test in Germany a crash dummy dog shot through the interior smashing violently into the dashboard.

A new Ford-commissioned survey shows 1 in 3 dog-owning drivers do not safely restrain dogs even though it is often a legal requirement.

Of those dog owners surveyed who said they did not always secure their pets, 32 per cent said it was because the animals did not like it, 31 per cent claimed there was no need when undertaking short journeys, and 14 per cent said they did not have room for a dog crate.

More than 1 in 4 of those who carried their dog unsecured admitted that their pet had poked its head out of the window (26 per cent). Some said pets had previously jumped out of the window resulting, on occasion, in the pet being killed or injured.

Owners also admitted being involved in accidents after being distracted by their pets, that dogs had turned on indicators, obscured the view ahead and bitten occupants.

Insurance claims can be invalidated if pets are not safely restrained in the vehicle.

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