Pets in cars

Ask The Traffic School Instructor: Pets In Cars

Question: Is it unsafe to drive with pets in cars?

Answer: It depends on how you transport the animal. Driving with unrestrained pets in a car can be dangerous for both you and the animal.

No matter how well trained an animal may be, they’re always unpredictable. It’s impossible to tell when something may be so enticing or frightening to an animal that it’s worth jumping out the window or clawing up the driver to escape. I’ll speak from a couple of my own experiences and hard learned lessons.

Many, many years ago we had a small terrier who used to accompany us when we ran errands or traveled. She had a lot of experience in the car and had never been a problem until one fateful day. We were traveling to a garden store that just happened to be across the street from her vet’s office. As soon as I turned the corner, even without looking out the window, she knew we were headed in the direction of the vet and she made a break for it by jumping out the open window into the middle of a very busy intersection. Fortunately, I was able to stop and other traffic cooperated by stopping long enough for me to catch her and get her safely back into the car.

On another occasion, we decided to get a kitten for our daughter. She had chosen a tiny kitten from a litter and we were on our way home on an interstate highway. So far, the sweet, tiny little kitten had remained very calm but, as I approached a toll booth, something spooked him. He raced right up my chest and dug his tiny, very sharp little claws into my face and held on for dear life. Luckily, there was very little traffic and I was already slowing for the toll booth. I had to steer with one hand and try to see around his body as I fought to rip his claws from my face. My three year old daughter thought it was hilarious.

If you’re the type of driver who likes to drive with pets in your lap, you might be heading for a big distraction if that pet wants to suddenly jump up and look out the window or try to escape. If a cat gets spooked in any way, you can count on being clawed as he tries to escape.

Even if the animal is calm and resting, if you have to suddenly hit the brakes, the animal is going to go flying into or under the dashboard; possibly interfering with your control of the gas and brake pedals. Depending on your speed at the time, it could lead to serious injuries for the animal.

Just like people, pets need to be restrained while in a car; either in a carrying case or by use of a halter designed to work with the seat belts. Now, when I travel out of state with my dog, she wears a travel harness and is clipped in to a D-ring in the cargo area behind the back seat. That’s the only way she has ever traveled. She’s used to it and remains very calm on our trips. It’s the best way to travel with a pet for both her safety and mine.