Many pets are docile when they travel, but others are hyper and jump from place to place. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals points out that a pet weighing 50 pounds in a 35 mph collision is projected forward like a cannonball with 1,500 pounds of force. It really doesn’t matter if the pet is like Lassie, or the Chihuahua from Taco Bell, a flying pet can cause fatal injuries to people in the front seat. Pets should be secured in a harness or pet carrier in the middle of the back seat so that they can’t be thrown and hurt someone, get hurt themselves, or distract the driver.
With wind in the face and ears flopping, most dogs enjoy hanging their head out car windows. That simple pleasure is overshadowed by the dangers. A dog’s eyes are susceptible to small rocks, dust, road debris and bugs. If a tiny rock can split a thick car windshield, imagine what that could do to an eye.
Harnesses for dogs and cats vary greatly in price but can cost as little as $10. Most harnesses are easy to use and will connect to the car’s existing seat belt. Some can also be unhooked and connected to a leash when leaving the car. Pets can become frightened and run away after an accident, so restraining them could prevent them from getting lost or being hit by a vehicle.
A survey by AAA indicated that more than 60 percent of drivers admitted their dogs distract them when they drive. An unrestrained pet can climb underneath a brake pedal. If that doesn’t totally distract a driver, the inability to apply brakes properly could be life threatening.
Humans have known to be injured because they were sitting too close to an airbag when it deployed. The head of most dogs are positioned much lower than a humans and Rover might be too close to the dashboard. An airbag deployment of 200 mph could cause extreme injury to most sized dogs. We can’t expect our law makers to regulate every possible driver conduct. Drivers must recognize their own responsibility to themselves and their pets.
The Georgia Driver’s manual says that drivers should make sure passengers secure their seat belt before starting their ignition. Some people consider their pet as part of their family. If child passengers are not allowed to ride unrestrained, why should family pets? A pet might give unconditional love, but for the love of your pet, use a harness.
Charlie Sewell is the Powder Springs chief of police. His column runs monthly in the Marietta Daily Journal.