We had attended two weddings 600 miles apart in less than 24 hours—driving through the night to make it to the second one on time. People said we were crazy, but we didn’t feel we could let down the friends and family that were counting on us. In the end, the trip had been successful, and the car was packed for the trip home. There had been some light rain, but the road conditions were fine, and we expected an uneventful drive. Certainly, we didn’t think anything of having to stop behind several other cars to wait for another vehicle to turn left. That is, until I glanced in the rearview mirror and saw the yellow Jeep coming up behind us. It was braking, but not fast enough to stop on the slightly slippery road.
Thump! We both jerked forward in our seatbelts, glanced at each other, and pulled to the side of the road. Maybe it wouldn’t be too bad, we thought, maybe it sounded worse than it was.
Unfortunately, that was not the case. Although we were able to drive home that night, it didn’t take the body shop and insurance company long to conclude that that type of damage on a twelve year old car was not worth repairing. But that isn’t the point of this story. The point is pet safety. Because the question that kept occurring to me over the next few days was, what would have happened if Sirius had been in the car? While he normally sits on highways and other high speed roads, he tends to stand when we’re at a stop. If he had been in the car, the impact could easily have thrown him off the seat. A higher speed crash could have thrown him into the front seat, or even through the windshield.
We had already been in the habit of using a seatbelt for Sirius on long car trips (he travels with us regularly), but we had not always used in for short in-town, low-speed trips. This was a reminder to do so.
There are a variety of available travel restraints, depending on your vehicle style and your dog’s riding preference. These include rear barriers for SUVs, seatbelt harnesses, and seat hammocks. For small pets (or large vehicles), crates are also an option – though they should be secured so that they don’t become projectiles. You can also hook a seatbelt through your pets harness, as long as the harness doesn’t hook around the dog’s neck.
Of course, as with human seatbelts, there is no 100% guarantee of safety in the case of an accident. However, by making sure your pet is properly secured in moving vehicles—and resisting those appealing eyes pleading to ride on your lap—you can keep your pet and yourself safer while traveling.