By KIM LOCCISANO
Times Leader Staff Writer
Who wouldn't crack a smile at the sight of a dog's ears flapping in the wind as it sticks its head out the window of a car -every window of the car -while the owner is behind the wheel attempting to concentrate on the already demanding responsibilities that come with driving?
T-L Photo/KIM LOCCISANO
Pet owners who outfit their dogs or cats with a harness that connects to a seat belt—like the one Kodi is wearing in the picture—are showing a great deal of love for their companion simply by showing a little restraint.
While it is a scene which makes motorists smile at the mere thought of the scenario, others see it as a ticking timer counting down the moments until disaster strikes with a vengeance.
Wearing a seat belt when in a moving vehicle is the law when it comes to people, but only a handful of states mandate the behavior for canines while traveling in cars.
Increasingly, there is support for developing simple, safe, inexpensive means of properly securing the family pet in the car with minimal fuss and in a way that can be automatically expected to increase anyone's blood pressure - whether for a trip around the block or across the country.
By the numbers:
Courtesy of Paws to Click
Americans and their pets are senselessly injured or killed in accidents because they are not informed or neglect to utilize a pet travel harness.
Every year, 30,000 accidents are caused by
dogs in the front seat of a moving vehicle.
Every 18 minutes an accident occurs due to a loose pet in a vehicle.
Tips for traveling with dogs from Whole Dog Journal:
- Dogs are safest in the car when they are in a sturdy crate that is securely fastened in place, or wearing a harness and a seatbelt in the back seat of the car. Owners should carry water and a leash, and make sure their friends are wearing ID tags.
- A dog can interfere with a driver's physical ability to drive the car. A dog sitting on the driver's lap can interfere with steering. A dog who gets on or under the accelerator or brake pedals, hits the gear shift, or blocks the driver's view can cause an accident.
- A dog can interfere with a driver's mental ability to drive the car. When the driver's attention is taken away from the road to deal with dog's behavior, the dog has become a safety hazard.
- A loose dog can become a flying missile if the car stops abruptly or is hit by another car.
- If the car windows break or the doors pop open in an accident, a loose dog can escape, get hit on the road, or run off and become lost.
- An unsecured dog can interfere with the efforts of rescue workers in an emergency.
- A dog with her head out the window can suffer injury to her eyes from bits of flying debris, or worse, can have her head smashed by objects that pass too close to the car (other vehicle mirrors, signs, branches).
- A loose dog can fall or jump out of an open window or back of a truck.
Hooking the family dog into a harness restraint or nestled safely in a travel crate is an act of love and compassion, according to the ASPCA.
The insurance industry considers such actions proactive and positive ways to prevent problems big or small- problems that can easily and should be avoided.
Safety and animal experts alike agree animals need to be secured while traveling in a vehicle for several important reasons, not the least of which is the animal immediately becomes a missile flying wildly around the inside of your car should you be involved in a crash.
The result is never positive or pleasant.
Officials with the AAA consider such habits essential to reducing accidents and the terrible toll they can exact in the blink of an eye-which is just about as long as it will take for a pup to literally get under the driver's feet, meander across and in front of a person's line of sight for the oncoming road, or dump your morning coffee onto your phone or laptop.
It is not meant to be viewed as a joke when law enforcement professionals, insurance industry experts and pet safety advocates are all three singing the same tune-or at least similar tunes-in the hope law makers will see the need to establish improved national standards to regulate conditions for safely transporting a family pet.
Americans love our pets, our families, and our vehicles.
These three aspects of a person's life come crashing together more than 30,000 times each year with profound and even deadly results being seen at many of the accident scenes this number represents, according to experts in our nation's insurance industry.
One of the most important questions asked by accident scene investigators heads straight to the question of seat belt use at the time of a vehicle crash: who was or was not wearing one.
All too often the answer is easily determined simply by a glance around an accident scene.
Such situations are made even more agonizing when family pets traveling in a car at the time of an accident are injured or are counted among the fatalities caused by the crash.
Worse yet is the realization: had that pet been traveling in a safe and restrained manner such as having been secured with an anchored harness restraint, or had been confined to a travel crate or kennel, the accident may well never have happened at all.
In the past few years, though heavily armed with facts, figures and financial impact information gleaned through years of research conducted throughout the insurance and safety industries, the American public has paid little to no attention to the argument for safer habits while traveling with a pet. Pet safety advocates and educators suggest properly restraining pets in a vehicle the same way a person restrains himself. Unfortunately, the average pet owner's car is not properly outfitted to allow the animal to travel safely with the family.
For the most part they generally love "their humans," often learning to do things which ultimately make lives of family members happier.
It is perfectly normal for pet owners across America to genuinely consider their four-legged and furry friends as a part of the family, which once acknowledged, explains part of the national tradition of taking pets just about everywhere the family goes.
Any pet owner asked will have at least a few stories to share about the difficulty of leaving a pet home rather than taking them along for the ride, as well as the hassle many anticipate would come with trying to use a special harness or crate to insure the comfort and safety of their canine companion.
Good intentions of pet owners to protect their animals is apparently not enough, as research has revealed some 98 percent continue allowing dogs and cats to travel unrestrained in moving vehicles, but most drivers do acknowledge they have personally gotten used to using a seat belt regularly-after all it is the law and it just might save them from serious or even fatal injuries should they be involved in an accident.