Millions of drivers could be breaking the law when it comes to travelling with dogs - and it might lead them to fines of up to £5,000.
Research conducted by the UK's largest independent road safety charity, IAM RoadSmart, has revealed that 42 per cent of dog owners surveyed put their dog in an unsafe place in the car while driving. With around 36 million licence holders in the UK and approximately 12 million dogs, these survey figures represent a huge amount of risk taking on UK roads.
Of the 42 per cent of dog owners admitting to not taking enough care, over a third said they left their pet unrestrained in the car, either in the back seat, the passenger seat, the footwell or loose in the boot. A further 8 per cent said they left their dog restrained on the passenger seat, which could lead to a pet being killed or badly injured in a collision if the airbag is activated, even at relatively low speed.
The Highway Code states dogs must be suitably restrained when travelling in a car so they cannot distract the driver or cause injury to either themselves or the motorist. And while disobeying the Highway Code doesn't carry a direct penalty, drivers could be pulled over by police and fined up to £1,000 for driving without proper control if their pet distracts them.
This could be escalated to failing to drive with due care and attention, which carries a maximum fine of £5,000 and nine penalty points if the case goes to court. To make matters worse, insurers are unlikely to pay out for an accident in the event of driving without proper control, leaving the motorist with a sizeable damage repair bill.
Neil Greig, Director of Policy and Research at IAM RoadSmart, said: “Motorists can restrain their pets by using a dog crate, dog harness or a dog guard for the car’s boot. This ensures dogs are not allowed to roam free inside the car, removing any chance of drivers getting into hot water with the law. A loose pet also becomes a lethal projective in the event of a sudden crash.
“Dogs are a loved and valued member of the family in millions of households up and down the country, meaning their safety when travelling should be thought about in the same way as the safety of all passengers in your vehicle.”