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Tips for driving with your pets

We’re used to cruising in the car with passengers by our side, but what if your travel buddy is a four-legged friend? Driving with pets can be a tricky topic, so we’ve broken it down below by answering some common questions, comments and concerns.
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Am I allowed to travel with my pet in the car?

Although there is nothing wrong with taking your furry friend out for a drive, they must be restrained at all times according to Rule 57 of the Highway Code. Restraining your pet using pet seat belts, carry cages or harnesses will make them much less of a distraction than if they were able to roam freely, helping you to drive more safely. 

As having an unrestrained pet in the car is illegal, should you have an accident it could invalidate your car insurance. Your insurance provider will want to know the cause of your accident and they may deny your claim if they find out that you were travelling with an unrestrained pet, even if the accident wasn’t your fault. Ignoring this law could also land you with a fine of up to £5,000 for ‘careless driving’ if pulled over by the police.

Is my pet covered by my car insurance?

This will vary depending on your provider. Some car insurance providers will provide pet cover whilst others may offer it as an add-on service, and some may not cover your beloved pets at all. It is important to do your research, as pet cover for car insurance isn’t a legal requirement but it may help to set your mind at ease while travelling.

What happens if my pet damages my car?

Regardless of whether you have fully comprehensive insurance or third party only, your insurer won’t cover the damage caused by wear and tear or negligence – including inside the car. So should your pet tear your upholstery or damage your interior, you’ll be responsible for fixing it.

Keeping your pets safe while driving

Joel Kempson, Car Insurance Expert, says: “Now the weather is getting warmer and holiday season is approaching, it’s important to bear in mind that some lockdown pets may have not experienced many road trips. To prevent accidents, try taking your pets on some shorter trips before you head off on holiday to get them used to the movement.

“When driving, it’s better to be prepared and take it slowly. Planning and investing in proper equipment to keep your pets safe can save a lot of hassle in the long run – as can checking with your insurance provider to see if your pets are covered.”

Can my pet call shotgun?

You may be thinking about having your pooch as the passenger or feline in the front seat. Though the law doesn’t specifically state that your pet can’t ride up front with you, it is strongly advised for them to travel either on the backseats or in the boot. Travelling on the front seat could cause your pet major harm if you were to get into an accident, especially if the airbags are activated.

If the front seat is your only option, push the seat back as far as you can, then secure your pet and disable the airbag (but remember to enable it before any people ride with you!).

Packing essentials

Travelling with a pet means that you have a whole extra list of essentials to consider. As well as their restraint to keep them safe in the car (such as a carry cage, pet seat belt or harness), you may also need some portable food and water bowls to ensure that your pet is comfortable during the journey. Always keep a spare lead, collar and poo bags in your car too, and a towel is always a good idea to help keep muddy paw prints off your seats!

Getting lost

If you’re travelling with a pet, you may need to stop a couple of times to let them stretch their legs or go to the toilet. In this new environment, your pet may wander off and get lost. To make this awful situation slightly easier, make sure that your pet is wearing a collar and tag with some of your details listed, and ensure that you have an up-to-date photo of them to circulate should you need to. Also, since 2016 it is a legal requirement that your dog is microchipped, meaning should you lose your pooch, good Samaritans could take them to a vet to find out who they belong to.

Windows

We’ve all seen cute pictures of pets with their head out of the window, but did you know that this activity could actually be very dangerous? Dirt and gravel could get into your pet’s eyes as you travel, or your pet could fall or jump out of the open window whilst the car is stationary, or worse, moving. 

Good car ventilation through opening the window will help your animal remain cool in the car. Your pets can become overheated very quickly on a hot day, especially if the car is stationary (even if the windows are down and you are parked in the shade!). Not only can leaving your pet in the hot car result in devastating consequences for them, but you could also come back to a smashed window due to someone’s attempt to rescue the animal. And what’s more, your car insurance may not cover the damage if your window has been smashed by a passer-by.

All in all, when travelling with your pet remember to drive gently, plan your stops and keep your pet restrained and comfortable. Oh, and a cute pet selfie when you safely arrive at your destination never hurt anybody!