How to keep your pets safe in cars

3 December 2013
 by 
, CarsGuide

A dog may be man’s best friend but, left to roam inside a car, it could turn out to be your worst enemy in a crash. A study by NRMA Insurance found only two of the 25 dog restraints tested passed a relatively low-speed crash test.

Drivers in NSW risk a $405 fine and three demerit points if caught with an animal on their lap. In school zones the fine increases to $506 and four demerit points. Leading an animal with a vehicle is a $57 fine in NSW.

“Our tests showed that an unrestrained pet sitting on the back seat of a car can hit the dashboard with enough force to cause serious injury, even at a collision speed below 20km/h,” said NRMA Insurance Head of Research Robert McDonald.

“Most people using the commonly available harnesses are doing so in a genuine attempt to keep their pets safe. (But) most harnesses, while effective at restraining pets, are not safety devices and do little to prevent injury in a common low speed crash.”

NRMA Insurance used weighted dog ‘dummies’ to test harnesses in 35km/h and 20km/h impacts. But 23 of the 25 popular harnesses tested failed because of the weak plastic buckles, similar to those to clip backpacks.

The two harnesses that didn’t fail were the Purina Roadie harness (which costs about $40) and the Sleepypod Clickit harness (which costs about $140) and also has ISOFIX attachment points, the same type used to restrain child seats in Europe and still pending final approval in Australia.

“An effective harness is critical when travelling with a pet as it keeps the animal safe and restrained and avoids the driver being distracted while driving with the animal moving around inside the vehicle,” said Mr McDonald. “In a collision, an unrestrained pet also has the potential to injure the other passengers in the vehicle.”

Meanwhile a survey of 450 NSW dog owners found that more than 40 per cent admitted they don’t restrain their dog when it’s travelling in the car. Dog owners are simply placing them on the front or back seat (70 per cent), in the back luggage area (15 per cent) or on their lap (4 per cent).

This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling

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