Do you sometimes drive with your pet on your lap? Here are the dangers of doing so

Many individuals in Australia are dog owners. Our pets are, more often than not, part of the family and definitely man’s best friend. We spend money caring for them, paying out for pet insurance and vet bills and ensuring that they get regular exercise. Yet all of this care and attention flies out of the window for some people who, when driving, choose to do so with their pet on their lap.

The RSPCA estimates that around 5000 dogs every year get injured or die because they were involved in falls from moving vehicles. Most dogs sitting on their owners’ laps are not going to be securely restrained. If a driver has to brake suddenly or swerve, they can unwittingly get thrown from the car, hit the windscreen, stop the driver from reaching the brakes or cause other serious distractions.

Legal implications

In 2013, rules were introduced in Australia to stop some of the bad habits that drivers have when driving with their pets in their vehicles. This does not apply to just dogs but rather, all types of pets/animals in the car have to be suitably housed or seated and definitely not on the driver’s lap. If stopped by the police, the driver could face demerits on their licence as well as a fine so there are penalties and financial implications involved.

If driving a ute, there are additional laws that ensure the animal cannot fall off the back of the vehicle when it is moving. This means suitable harnessing or housing animals in cages when on the move. Motorbike riders, passengers or cyclists also cannot lead their animal as and when their vehicle is moving and sitting the dog between the motorbike saddle and handlebars is not allowed.

Safety reasons

While some owners might think that their dogs are safe on their lap, it is yet another distraction that the driver does not need. As noted above, if the vehicle has to come to a sudden stop, a dog can become an airborne missile. Not only could the animal slam into the dashboard or windscreen but it could also become lodged under the gas pedal or brake if it lands on the floor of the vehicle.

A driver that is trying to help a distressed animal is not focussed on what is happening around them. The driver may not be able to stop the moving vehicle if the pet is prohibiting access to the brake or clutch, and could cause serious injuries not just to themselves but other drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.

Additional injuries and concerns

Pets can become scared and turn aggressive when put in situations that are very stressful and frightening. They may turn on others who are attempting to help when accidents have occurred. The last thing an owner wants is for their pet to turn on the emergency service workers or for their animal to run away. Yet these are two more consequences of not taking the right safety precautions when you are driving with pets in the car.

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