Driving with your best fur friend can be a fun and enjoyable experience, but it’s important to remember the safety precautions to keep you and your dog safe on the road.
Taking your dog along while running errands or on a road trip can be a great bonding experience, but it’s crucial to remember the proper safety protocols for you and your dog when on the road.
Many seasoned and new pet parents overlook or dismiss the many important do’s and don’ts when they have their dog or dogs in the car.
As a dog mom and a certified pet first aid instructor with a certification in pet safety, I always practice dog car safety when I take one of my dogs in my vehicle, whether it’s a short trip to the vet or when visiting the mainland and taking long car rides.
In this blog post, you will learn the do’s and don’ts of driving with a dog, how to keep your dog safe while driving, driving laws for driving with a dog in a car, and dog car safety products to maintain a safe time on the road.
This blog is about dog car safety.
How to drive safely with a dog.
Don’t Drive With Your Dog on Your Lap.
If you have a small dog or new puppy, it’s easy to lay them on your lap while driving to help keep them calm and comfort them during the drive.
I understand why many pet parents do this, but I’m going to share two reasons why you should reconsider driving with your dog on your lap.
First, if your dog tends to move around a lot on your lap or suddenly jumps up, they could bump into the steering wheel, causing you to accidentally swerve into oncoming traffic or the car in the lane next to you.
During a collision, an airbag deploys from the steering wheel at the rate of about 200 miles per hour with a force of 2000 pounds.
Individuals involved in accidents when the airbag deploys can sustain injuries such as facial injuries, chest injuries, fractures to their face, skull, ribs, or wrists, burns, and internal bleeding.
Now consider the additional injuries you would sustain if your dog were pushed into you by the airbag.
Your injuries will be more extensive, and your dog will likely not survive the impact.
To put it into perspective, in an accident with a car driving 50 miles per hour, a 10-pound dog has an 800-pound crash force, and in an accident involving a car going 30 miles per hour, an 80-pound dog has a crash force of 2400 pounds.
Don’t Drive with Your Dog Free Roaming Inside the Car or in the Back of a Truck Bed.
Another common practice for dog parents with medium to larger dogs is to load them in the car’s back seat or put them in the truck’s bed unrestrained.
However, like driving with a dog on your lap, driving with unrestrained dogs, whether inside or in the truck bed, does not come without consequences.
When a dog is in the back seat and becomes disruptive, the first instinct is to turn around to look at the dog to give them a correction or look into the rearview mirror to see what’s happening and address the behavior.
The problem with this in both scenarios is you have become distracted while driving and taken your eyes off the road.
If you are involved in a collision, an unrestrained dog becomes a projectile and can fly through the windshield or be ejected from the vehicle.
In addition, unrestrained dogs traveling in the beds of trucks have access to freely jump out, which could lead to causing a car accident and/or being seriously injured or killed.
Do Use Dog Car Safety Products and Accessories.
Keep your dog safe while driving and use car safety products or accessories created for pets.
Many pet businesses and industry professionals have dedicated themselves to creating products and accessories to help you travel safely with your dog in your car, such as dog seat belts, dog car safety harnesses, dog car seats, carriers, and kennels.
Dog Seat Belt Restraints.
Kong Ultimate Safety Car Seat Tether is my favorite dog seat belt/restraint available today.
The Kong Ultimate Safety Car Seat Tether helps keep your dog in place, keeping them in the middle of the seat and securing them from falling into the foot well area in front of the back seat.
It also uses a 3-point anchor system to secure your dog to the back seat, the exact anchor mechanism for securing infant seats in vehicles.
Pet safety experts recommend never connecting dog seat belts, restraints, or tethers directly to your dog’s collar.
This risk for neck fractures or airway damage is significant if you suddenly have to apply the brakes.
Connect dog seat belts, restraints, or tethers to a dog harness for the best dog car safety practice.
A dog car safety harness will distribute pressure evenly during a collision or if you apply your brakes suddenly.
Dog Car Safety Harness.
Kurgo’s Enhanced Strength Tru-fit Dog Car Harness is car crash tested for dogs up to 75 pounds, has comfortable padding in the front chest area and comes with a steel carabiner to attach the harness to a vehicle’s car seat belt system.
Many pet safety professionals recommend that pet parents use dog car safety products like dog seat belts or restraints, dog car safety harnesses, dog car safety seats, and kennels to travel safely with a dog in a car.
PetSafe’s Happy Ride Safety Harness is certified car crash tested, has comfortable padding in the front chest area, is easy to use and attach to a vehicle seat belt system, and comes in various sizes.
Click Here to Shop for Dog Car Safety Products and Accessories on Aloha Dog Mom’s Amazon Store Front
Dog Car Safety Seats.
Unfortunately, pet safety experts don’t recommend dog car seats but agree that crates and carriers are the safest dog car products for dogs traveling in cars.
Many dog car seats are not rated for car crashes but are tested for distracted driver prevention.
Also, many dog car seats cannot be secured a vehicle seat and have very flimsy seat attachments that quickly come apart and cannot withstand a strong pull.
The dog car seat restraints attached to the seat are not very strong and will not hold a dog in place during a collision.
Another type of dog car seat to avoid using is any dog car seat that sits on the center console (armrest) area between the driver and passenger.
Center console dog car seats are incredibly unsafe as they typically need strong attachments to properly secure the dog car seat in place and have nothing around it to protect your pup during a collision.
In my experience, the only dog car seat I have come across that was car crash tested and passed testing standards was the PupSaver.
The PupSaver dog car seat is a rear-facing seat (similar to an infant car seat), can be used in the front or backseat, and attaches to a vehicle’s seat using 5 seatbelt buckles.
In a collision, your dog will be protected from impact, as the PupSaver dog car seat will engage with the SRS system of your vehicle’s seatbelt, pulling the PupSaver close to the back of the seat.
Your dog’s body will be enclosed inside as the PupSaver dog car seat “clamshells” over your dog, with the tension of the seatbelt pulling the top part of the seat down and preventing your dog from becoming a projectile.
If you live on the mainland, you can purchase a PupSaver dog seat directly from the company’s website.
I was lucky enough to get my hands on a PupSaver dog car seat on a whim during a Black Friday deal through a third-party seller a few years ago, but unfortunately, PupSaver does not ship to Hawai’i.
Do Consider the Best Place For a Dog to Ride in a Car.
Although many pet parents love having their furry sidekick riding shotgun in the front passenger seat, it’s honestly not the best or safest place for your dog in a car.
Pet Safety Professionals highly recommend the best place for a dog to ride in a car is inside the vehicle, secured in the back seat to minimize distractions and injuries.
Avoid using any “zip-line” type of accessories to try to restrain your dog inside a vehicle.
If your dog cannot ride safely in the back seat and must be in the front seat, take necessary precautions and use dog car safety gear designated for front-seat canine passengers.
Push the front as far back as possible, use sturdy dog car safety accessories, and disable the passenger airbag if possible.
If your dog cannot ride inside the vehicle and has to ride in the bed of a truck, use a solid enclosed kennel (not wire kennels) and tie down the kennel to keep the kennel from sliding around the bed when you’re driving or falling out if you’re involved in a collision.
Know How to Legally Drive with a Dog.
Very few US states mandate dogs wearing seat belts in cars, but many states have laws regarding dogs and distracting driving.
Some states like Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Connecticut have laws stipulating dogs to wear vehicle restraints when traveling in a car.
Other states, like Hawaii, have laws regarding driving with dogs on laps and driving with unrestrained pets inside a vehicle or in truck beds.
No matter where you live, I recommend looking up driving laws stipulated by the state, county, or city regarding driving a car legally with a dog.
In my research, many sites report that Hawaii doesn’t have laws regarding driving with pets or that the law is ambiguous.
Chapter 291c (Hawaii Statewide Traffic Code)
Rules of the Road: Part XII Miscellaneous Rules
291C-124 Obstruction to Driver’s View or Driving Mechanism (b)
It is illegal to drive your vehicle without your dog secured adequately inside/outside your car.
Sec.291C-124(b) Driving with an animal on lap.
(Hawaii Revised Statues): While operating a motor vehicle, no person shall hold in the person’s lap, or allow to be in the driver’s immediate area, any person, animal, or object which interferes with the driver’s control over the driving mechanism of the vehicle.
City & County of Honolulu (Oahu Island)
Revised Ordinances of Honolulu
Chapter 15: Traffic Code
Article 24: Miscellaneous Provisions
Section 22: Carrying animal in vehicle.
Sec. 15-24-22 (b) Carrying animal in vehicle improperly.
(Revised Ordinances in Hawaii): No dog or any other animal shall be transported on any public street or highway in any vehicle unless such animal is totally enclosed within such vehicle, within a secured container carried upon such vehicle, or securely cross-tethered to such vehicle in such a way as to prevent the animal from falling out or off such vehicle, and to prevent injury to the animal.
Driving with a dog can be a fun and enjoyable experience for you and your furry passenger.
However, it is crucial to practice dog car safety at all times by using dog car safety products like a dog crate or dog car safety harness, avoiding distractions, such as allowing your dog to sit on your lap behind the wheel or roam around the car, and always obey the current driving with a dog in car laws.
Remember that your dog is not just a pet but also a family member; it is your responsibility to take care of their safety.