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Family Dog riding in car

Dogs in Cars: Keeping our Furry Friends Safe on the Road

Thanks to a recent scientific study confirming for us what all dog owners already know; dogs can make you live longer and be happier. But how can we make sure our furry friends can live longer as well? It all starts with car safety.

Backed by science

There’s a simple math equation for finding out just how dangerous an unrestrained animal like a dog can be in a car accident. For example, in a 30 mile-an-hour head-on collision, a 50-pound dog can have the impact force of 1,500 pounds. It sounds so strange to call a dog a projectile but at these speeds, this is essentially what they become. Of course, this would harm the animal, but any humans in the car as well.

There are three main things to consider for keeping your dog safe when driving: preventing distractions, managing the dog’s deceleration rate upon impact, and keeping the dog restrained post-crash. All that needs to be achieved with speed and convenience if you’re actually going to bother using the system every time you load a dog into the car. Plus, the system needs to be comfortable for the dog.

Probably the easiest way to secure a dog in a car is with a divider between the back seat and the load area of a wagon or SUV. A crate takes containment one step further and would work even if the rear window gets broken in an event like a rollover. Of course, not all dividers and crates are created equally. Many load dividers install only under tension and are built from flimsy materials, like plastic. The Center for Pet Safety recommends the Gunner Kennel G1.

Dividers and crates may help keep human occupants safe from flying dogs in a crash, as well as help keep dogs safely inside the vehicle, but they do nothing to actually protect the dog during the crash. The trick is to manage the deceleration rate of the animal in question—be it human or canine—which means decreasing the force with which the heart, spleen, brain, or other organs get squashed against something hard. That’s what seatbelts and airbags do for humans, but until the past few years, there was no such product available for dogs, no standards defining what these products should set out to achieve, and no procedures for testing them.

The Center for Pet Safety (CPS) adopted Federal Motor Vehicle Standard 213 (FMVS 213), which regulates child-restraint systems, as its guide and developed a methodology for testing dog restraints to that standard. The initial results on existing products were eye-opening. Of the devices it tested, 100 percent failed. CPS lists four problems it found in that initial batch of testing:

  1. Extremely low likelihood of survivability for the animal.
  2. Danger to humans when the dog becomes a missile.
  3. Choking and/or other bodily harm to the animal when harness materials cinch tightly upon impact.
  4. Extensive damage to fixtures within the vehicle caused by the projectile animal.

By employing FMVS 213 in its testing, CPS’s major concern is keeping the dog from hitting the back of the front seats. (Dog safety harnesses are designed to attach to the seatbelts in the back seat.) So it’s no coincidence that the most effective harness ended up being one designed to hold a dog in the same position as a child sitting in its car seat.

The most effective way to correctly support a dog is to have a harness with a seat belt attachment back between the hips, over the tail, like the Ruffwear Load Up Harness. The elasticity of the nylon webbing and the padding in the harness then provide the deceleration essential to making the crash survivable, and the dog remains in the proper orientation throughout the crash.

You can find a list of CPS-certified products here.

Distracted driving

Similar to holding a phone in your hand while operating a vehicle, having a pet in your lap or unrestrained in the front seat could be considered a major distraction in some states. Having a dog in your car at all without the proper restraints can also be against the law. Click here to discover which phase of law implementing your state is in: https://news.orvis.com/dogs/does-your-state-require-dogs-be-harnessed-in-the-car

No matter if it's two or four-legged passengers, North Hills Auto cares about the safety of everyone in your vehicle. Stop by for our Annual Safety Inspection before getting back on the road, safer.

Call North Hills Auto at Augusta St (864) 233-9002 or Butler Rd (864) 234-1002.

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