Taking a Road trip with your Pets

February 1, 2019 10:52 am Published by

My local veterinary practice published an interesting poster on their social media account showing facts to do with what the laws are on having pets in the car. I personally found it very thought provoking about how many driving laws there were that involved pets. I also found it very interesting that most insurance companies will not pay out for an insurance claim if these laws are not obeyed.

Some of these facts included that around 34% of drivers fail to restrain pet passengers, one in ten drivers allow their pets to sit in the front seat of the car and UK drivers are risking a fine of up to £2500. The last few facts were that 64% of drivers are unaware that they can get a fine if a pet in a car is unrestrained and an unrestrained pet could earn drivers nine points on their licence.

Millions of drivers are risking expensive fines by not restraining dogs, cats, rabbits and hamsters in the car that are seen as distractions. Most pet owners will routinely put their beloved cats in cat carriers for road trips, so this blog is mainly aimed at all the dog owners out there. According to the newspaper the Sun, not buckling up your pet in a car with a pet seatbelt could land an individual with a £5000 fine and could even invalidate your insurance.

Since the UK is a nation of animal lovers, especially dogs, with over 8.5 million pooches living in the UK, this is a side to law that affects either ourselves or someone we know. In a Twitter poll conducted by the insurance company Marmalade, 58% of 221 dog-loving drivers said that they do not use a seatbelt or similar restraint on their dogs when they’re in the car with them! This perfectly shows that more needs to be done to keep our dogs safe in the car! Little is known about driving with a pet in the vehicle, which is worrying especially when it can have a detrimental effect on one’s pet, one’s driving insurance and personal finances.

Drivers are also at risk from fines for driving without due care and attention or distracted driving if their animal is not restrained. Driving without due care and attention carries a penalty of either a disqualification, or between 3 and 9 points. In some cases, a driver might even risk losing their licence for something as simple as not restraining their pets in their vehicle.

So, driving with an unrestrained pet could leave a driver charged with careless and inconsiderate driving, which is Section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. Section 3 states that if a person drives a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place without due care, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road or public place, the driver is guilty of an offence.

So, what is careless driving? The term ‘careless driving’ is used to describe driving that falls below the minimum standard expected of a careful driver. This also includes driving without reasonable consideration for other road users. Careless driving includes many actions that the law deems careless, so anything that falls below the normal standard of careful and competent driving.

Here is a list of examples of possible acts of careless driving. Note, that even experienced drivers might fall short of the driving standards:

  • Driving through a red light by mistake
  • Turning into the path of another vehicle
  • Counter flowing (meaning to drive the wrong way down a street)
  • Flashing your lights to force other drivers to give way
  • Misusing lanes to gain an advantage over other drivers
  • Unnecessarily staying in an overtaking lane
  • Using a mobile phone while driving
  • Becoming distracted whilst driving
  • Sleepy or drowsy, excessive yawning

A good rule of thumb is to think is this behaviour something that a driver would do on their driving test. If not, then it would be seen as careless or inconsiderate driving behaviours.

In this case, the possible act of careless driving we are specifically looking at today is becoming distracted at the wheel. Having an unrestrained pet could be considered as a distraction to the driver. One of the major things is keeping your dog secure in a crate or in the boot with a barrier to prevent them getting into the back seat. If they are in the back seat, then it is the law that they must be secured by a dog seatbelt. Taking these simple measures keeps everyone safe – from the driver, who risks losing control if forced to brake, to the dog who can easily be propelled into the front seat in a crash. And those of you who let your dog stick its head out of the window is a big safety risk so do try to avoid this.

The Highway Code states that dogs or other animals must be suitably restrained in a moving car, so that they cannot distract the driver or cause injury. Most motor insurance policies also do not cover the motorist if it has been found that they were driving with an unrestrained pet.

You can buy a dog seatbelt from large pet stores, such as Pets at Home, or Halfords sell dog seatbelts too. Dog seatbelts do have a range of styles and prices, but it is important that if you do buy a seatbelt for your dog, that you attach it to a safety harness and not the dog’s collar for obvious reasons.

So, this blog has told you how to keep your dog safe and comfortable when you’re on a road trip and how to keep within the law whilst driving a vehicle with your pet – but what if you’re not moving at all? Some owners think it is ok to leave their dogs in their car whilst parked if they leave a window open slightly or make sure there is some water in the car. Unfortunately, doing these things does not help your dog at all. Leaving your dog in your car can be dangerous even if it’s only for a few short minutes. Cars are death traps for dogs as the Dogs Trust state that under 20 minutes in a hot car can prove fatal to a dog should its body temperature exceed 41°C. If you do see a dog in distress in a parked car, call the police or the RSPCA 24-hour cruelty line on 0300 1234 999.

If you have been seen to be driving with an unrestrained animal in your car, then you will be made aware of this within fourteen days of the offence occurring. This can be done through a police officer reporting you verbally; right on the spot or you will receive a Notice of Intended Prosecution through the post. To find out more, see our previous blog on Notice of Intended Prosecutions on our website for more information.

There may be quite a few rules around this but having a road trip with your best friend is great – so It is worth taking those extra precautions before you set off to ensure a carefree trip. Don’t leave anything to chance, it’s not just your licence and finances that are at risk, but also your pet’s life. Follow these rules and have a fabulous trip!

If you do find that you have been charged with careless driving due to an unrestrained pet and need legal advice, we are here to help. Our team of specialist driving offence solicitors at Driving Solicitors have the experience and expertise to help and guide you through the experience of being reported for summons of any possible driving offence. So, if you have been reported for summons for careless driving due to an unrestrained pet and want the help of a professional to help to put together a good defence case with you, then do not hesitate to contact Driving Solicitors on 0203 488 2551 and get expert legal advice from a specialist motoring solicitor today.

For more information on Careless Driving offences please Click Here

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Written by:  Miriam Rhodes-Leader