My dog Magic’s nails dug into my leg as he hopped up and down to get a better look at the smiling Golden Retriever hanging her head out the car window in the left lane. “Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop!” I chanted while I desperately clutched the wheel with two fingers and nudged him toward the passenger seat. But he was already back in my lap and perched on his hind legs— for some reason beyond human understanding the view from the other window was unsatisfactory. “I’m still not rolling the window down,” I reminded him. “You don’t want to get a bug in your eye, trust me”. Several cars passed my slowly rolling Jeep as their drivers turned to get a glimpse of the type of person who could drive like this– they likely were reasonably horrified to see a sixteen year-old wrestling a hyper shih tzu mutt rather than focusing on the road.
Magic looked forward to car rides and happily sprung into the Jeep when he was invited on an errand, but his overeager traveling behavior put both of us in danger of a car accident. He never experienced an accident, but my tendency to worry about him allowed terrifying “what if”s to run through my mind. I would have never forgiven myself if he was hurt in my car.
When I took a trip with my friend Liz and her dog Luna I learned there was a much safer way to travel. In Liz’s SUV, a grate separates the back of the car from the seats, so Luna is able to see out the windows and enjoy car rides without clambering all over the driver. While this method unfortunately will not provide a human seat belt’s level of protection (to determine the safest options, look into crash tested restraints), it significantly reduces the probability of an accident by preventing Luna from distracting the driver.
Other drivers use different restraint methods for traveling with pets. For example, my cat Midnight rides in her carrier because she would otherwise stretch out on the dashboard. Other pet owners prefer harnesses or seats. When deciding between car travel options, research different types of restraints to determine the best fit for your pet and vehicle.
Dogs who freely roam about the vehicle during car rides could distract the driver. Keeping a dog in a crate, carrier, or seat belt harness may not be a foolproof safety method, but these methods of restraint reduce the chances of driver distraction caused accidents. Check crash tested restraints to determine to safest options.