Car Safety


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You’ve seen the pictures online—a cute dog or cat, perched on the dashboard of a vehicle, usually with a caption that says “Love my little co-pilot!” or something similar. Unfortunately, these cute photo opportunities can turn deadly in an instant. Not only is there a chance that the pet will fly through the windshield or another window if you hit someone or if someone hits you, but your pet is also a distraction to you, the driver. You may think you’re paying attention, simply glancing over every once in a while—perhaps sneaking a pet in while you’re at a red light—but what happens if something startles your pet, and they dash down to the floorboard by your feet? It can happen in a second.

According to a survey by the American Automobile Association, over 80% of dog owners drive with their pets in the car. And the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), reports 6,734,000 vehicle crashes in 2018, with 2,710,000 injuries and 36,560 fatalities.

Here are a few ways you can keep your pet safe while riding in your vehicle:

• Secure them in a crate or use another restraint option (see Car Safety Products on pages 22–23).

• Always secure them in the back seat— the front airbag can be deadly.

• Do not allow your pet to hang out the window. Debris could hit and injure them. They could also fall out and be dragged until you come to a stop or, if you stop suddenly, it could result in a severe injury.

• Do not turn around or reach behind you to pet or interact with your pet.

• If you suspect your pet is experiencing a pet emergency, pull over, park, and then tend to your pet.

• Prevent choking accidents by saving the treats and toys for after you reach your destination.

• Make frequent stops for bathroom and water breaks.

• Always secure your pet with a leash before leaving the car, and do not allow them to roam free outside the car.

Training your pet to ride in the car safely:

• Practice! Think of riding in the car as a command like sit or stay. You’ll need to practice this experience with your pet to ensure that they are successful at staying calm and relaxed.

• Never leave your pet in the car unattended. Even with the windows cracked, open, or the A/C running, your pet could suffer deadly heatstroke.

Traveling with your pet is a serious business. As a responsible pet owner, you must keep your pet safe, secure, and out of harm’s way at all times. And, as a responsible driver, you must stay alert, obey the law, drive safely with no distractions, and never put other drivers in harm’s way.

Car Safety Quiz

How many problems can you spot in these photos?
photo A
photo A»

photo B
photo B»

photo C
photo C»

photo D
photo D»

Answers below

Check Out These Car Safety Products

There are plenty of options out there when it comes to pet safety gear. Unlike vehicles, pet restraint systems are not required to be crash tested or meet any federal safety standards. But some pet products meant for use in vehicles are tested, and the standards by which they’re tested will vary by product.

Crash tests for harnesses generally use the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FVMSS) for child restraint systems, FVMSS 213, which is issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s in-house laboratory, the Vehicle Research and Test Center. Look for the report on the product you’re considering, as well as videos of the test. Kennel testing also uses the FVMSS standard but incorporates additional testing that complies with European car safety standards (ECE R-17). When comparing crates or kennels, take a minute to read each of their car safety or crash test reports.

Some points to consider before you buy:

  1. Look for products that have not only great crash test results but also a track record of safety and protection in vehicle accidents on record.

2. Look or ask for certifications, documentation and crash test videos that confirm a product has been crash tested and meets FVMSS and other car safety requirements for front, rear and roll over impacts.

3. Ensure that the carrier you buy has crumple zone protection, to soften the impact of an accident and better protect your pet. The crumple zone will absorb some of the blow, keeping your pet safe from the sharp edges of a broken crate and helping your vehicle’s built-in crash protection keep your pet and other occupants safe by preventing impact damage to the rear seats.

4. Other features, such as a safety escape hatch at the rear of the crate, can be lifesaving if an accident damages the cargo door so it can’t be opened.

5. Always follow manufacturers’ directions carefully when installing and using a car safety product for your pet.


The adjustable 4×4 North America MIM Safe VarioCage Dog Transport Kennel has passed front, rear, and roll-over crash tests. It comes in 14 adjustable sizes to best fit most pets and vehicles and features locking doors with gas hydraulic motion springs, as well as an emergency escape hatch for added safety, and a built-in crumple zone to absorb impact. It also features built-In key lock and padlock mounting tabs for security.

ANSWERS TO PAGE 21 QUIZ: Photos A/B: Driving with a pet in your lap, unrestrained pet hazard, dog not wearing identification, open window is a falling hazard. Photo C: Distraction hazard, unrestrained pet hazard, not wearing visible ID. Photo D: Besides being illegal in most states, the untethered, unrestrained dog is in serious danger of falling off the back of the truck. Note the missing collar with visible identification.


This harness has been tested at an established university testing facility using the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard for child restraint systems and with simulated crash test dogs. Four adjustment points give you a near-perfect fit on all shapes and sizes of dogs, and it fully integrates into your vehicle’s seatbelt system, requiring no additional straps or attachments.


The AllSafe Comfort – Dog Safety Harness was developed in Germany by a company with 18 years of experience in the design of crash tested pet safety harnesses. It features special soft padding and a wide chest plate to alleviate pressure points and provide comfort, security and safety for your dog. Made from high-strength polyester fabric with connectors of high load capacity coated steel.


The safety harness is fully padded with a breathable mesh liner to keep your pet comfortable during travel. The harness comes with a PetSafe® Happy Ride™ Seat Belt Tether. With multiple attachment points, the certified crash-tested safety harness easily attaches to your car’s seat belt with the tether.


The GUNNER®kennel is a made of a double-walled rotomolded construction. The escape-proof, reversible door system has three points of backup safety locks and integrated stainless-steel tie-down pins tested not to rip from the kennel on impact. Drain plug makes for easy cleaning. Comes with a lifetime warranty. Family owned and made in the USA.


Your dog can stay safe and comfortable in your car with the windows down! BreezeGuard® screens are custom-made, welded steel, wire mesh cage panels or “screens,” with a black powder-coated finish, that fit your car’s window opening. They install from the inside of the vehicle to allow for free movement of the window glass. Sold in sets of two, BreezeGuards allow for a cross breeze, keeping your vehicle within a few of degrees of the outside temperature. Easy to install and guaranteed to please!

Alicia Bailey
Alicia Bailey
Alicia Bailey is a writer specializing in animal welfare topics and issues. Prior to writing full time she spent 13+ years working in rescue and animal sheltering, holding leadership roles in both. She has worked with numerous local and national non-profit organizations including Best Friends Animal Society, NKLA, The Palm Springs Animal Shelter, Coachella Valley Animal Campus, and many others. Alicia is mom to 3 uniquely abled dogs, including @LittleBoogieShoes & @Bust.A.Moves.


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