One in three dog-owning drivers leave their pets loose in car

Where does your dog sit?

How do you travel with your dog? New research from Ford shows that some drivers are risking lives by letting their pets roam free in the car.

The car maker surveyed 5,000 dog-owning drivers in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, revealing that one in three (32%) do not safely restrain their dog in the car.

In the UK it is not a legal requirement to secure your dog, but the Highway Code states: "When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly. A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars."

Driving with an unrestrained pet can cause a dangerous distraction, and while there is no direct penalty motorists could face a charge of driving without due care and attention if they get distracted by their animals behind the wheel.

This means that if you drive with your dog loose in the car you could face a fine of up to £5,000 and it could even invalidate your car insurance, leaving your without cover in the event of an accident.

Experts estimate that if a car crashes at a speed of 40 km/h (25 mph), an unrestrained dog can develop projection forces of 40 times its body weight.

"If you have a pet, please think of its safety in the same way you would about any other member of the family," said Graeme Hall, celebrity dog trainer from Channel 4's the Dogfather. "I always carry my dog Lily in the boot in her crate. She can comfortably move around and everyone's safe. I believe that's the best solution."

Among those dog owners who don't always secure their pets, 32% said it was because the animals did not like it, 31% claimed there was no need on short journeys, and 14% said they did not have room for a dog crate.

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

According to Ford, its new Focus Estate was designed with dogs in mind. Ford Engineer Rene Berns made sure the boot space can accommodate the biggest possible crate, which means the car can comfortably carry even an Irish Wolfhound, the world's tallest breed of dog.

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