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Motor Mouth articles 2011

Flying dogs need to be grounded

A MEDIUM-sized dog, unrestrained on the back seat of a car involved in a 30mph crash, would be propelled forward with the force equal to a baby elephant. It would almost certainly be curtains for dog, driver and anyone else in the way.

Goodness knows how many people drive around with loose dogs inside their cars, and yet there is no legislation to stop the practice, despite all the safety measures and sensible seatbelt laws relating to humans in recent years.

Road safety specialists GEM Motoring Assist, formerly the Guild of Experienced Motorists, reckon it’s time for official action and their research suggests that most British drivers agree.

The issue made headlines recently when ex-EastEnders actor Todd Carty spearheaded a campaign for a new law to make dog seatbelts compulsory after a near tragic accident when his pug jumped out of his car and was almost killed running under a 4×4.

GEM boss David Williams says: “Not only are avoidable accidents caused by unrestrained animals in the car but the consequences of a crash can be much more severe. Dog harnesses are available for dogs of all sizes and we advise motorists to always consider their dog as well as the rest of the family when it comes to car safety.”

In the event of an accident, even a small dog like a West Highland terrier would smack into the head of a front-seat occupant like a canine cannonball, with appalling consequences. GEM say: “It is unlikely that the dog, or the human occupants, would survive such a violent impact.”

The experts say that anyone who travels regularly with a dog should invest in a pet carrier – which also works for cats – or some other sort of restraint, such as a dog guard, pet seatbelt or travel crate.

A GEM spokesman adds: “The crate is the safest option, especially for larger dogs, but does depend on the type and size of your car – it is best suited to estate models. A dog guard works best in hatchbacks, but must be securely fitted in order to protect all occupants. Pet seatbelts can be used in any car but may take an older dog some time to get used to.”

Urging the government to act, they say: “This new law, if implemented, would be a great step towards reducing the number of accidents caused by animals.”

Even well-behaved dogs that sit quietly and don’t wander around inside the car can pose a danger, but the driver distraction caused by the kind of bouncing mutts that you see ricocheting from window to window barking at the world must potentially be even more of a threat.

Seatbelts and harnesses would be a good innovation but I reckon it’s time someone invented a gadget that would deal with all the other side-effects of dogs in cars: the slobbery dribble and huff marks on windows and seats, wet-hound pongs like old compost heaps, muddy paw prints and worse. Now that would be another step in the right direction.

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