Press release:

Travelling pets an insurance hazard for a fifth of drivers

  • Two thirds (69%) of drivers have travelled with a pet in their car[1] but almost a fifth (19%) don’t secure them when driving and let it roam free in the vehicle[2]
  • A further one in five (21%) admit to being distracted by their furry companion when driving[3]
  • When distracted by their pets, four in ten (40%) drivers have taken their eyes off the road, a fifth (21%) have had an accident or near-miss with another motorist and 17% needed to perform an emergency stop as a result[4]
  • A third of drivers (34%) are unaware that the Highway Code states that animals must be properly secured in a vehicle when moving[5]
  • uSwitch.com asks drivers to ensure pets are safely restrained on any road trips they are planning to take this Bank Holiday.

Britain is a nation of pet lovers, to the extent that two thirds (69%) of drivers travel with their pet in the car[1]. Yet, almost a fifth (19%) are breaking the Highway Code and potentially invalidating their car insurance by letting their pets roam freely in their vehicle[2], according to new research from uSwitch.com, the price comparison and switching service.

By not securing their pets in the vehicle, drivers are putting both themselves and other road users at risk, with over a fifth (21%) admitting to being distracted by their pet when driving[3]. Of those distracted two in five (40%) admit to taking their eyes off the road, a fifth (21%) have had an accident or a near miss while one in six (17%) have had to perform an emergency stop to avoid a collision[4].

The Highway Code states that any animals travelling in a moving vehicle must be suitably restrained[6] – yet a third of drivers (34%) are unaware that this rule exists[5].

13% of drivers allow their pet to ride shotgun[7], while a third (31%) let their pet stick its head out of the window while moving[8]. One in six (15%) rely on fellow passengers to hold the animal rather than use a proper restraint[9].

Dogs and cats are the most common pets to have hitched a lift with seven in ten (70%) and a third (37%)[10] of motorists having travelled with them, respectively. Less conventional pets to have been driven around include rabbits (8%), fish (6%) and parrots (2%) – some people have even transported their pet snake in their car (1%)[10].

Pets hitching a ride % of drivers
Dogs 70%
Cats 37%
Hamsters 6%
Fish 6%
Guinea Pigs 4%
Birds 4%
Parrots 2%
Snakes 1%
Lizards 1%
Spiders 1%

Source: uSwitch.com research April 2017

Rod Jones, insurance expert at uSwitch.com, said: “As a nation of animal lovers, it’s surprising to see so many drivers taking such a relaxed attitude to their pet’s wellbeing, never mind their own safety when behind the wheel. As much as we love our pets, remember that securing your furry friend when driving is a requirement in the Highway Code. The last thing you’d want to happen is to suffer an accident and only then find that your insurer may not pay out.

“If you’re planning on hitting the road with your pet, make sure you take the necessary precautions to keep you both safe. There are a number of different options available to secure your pet and stop them distracting you, from cages which fit in the boot to specialist safety harnesses. Choose what works best for you and your four-legged friend.”

To help motorists create the perfect driving experience for their pets and passengers alike, Dr Roger Mugford animal psychologist and founder of The Company of Animals has provided top tips for securing your pet on the road:

“Travelling with a pet in the car doesn’t need to be a stressful experience for you or your pet.

Make sure your dog is well exercised before travelling so that he will be more inclined to rest during the journey. For a longer journey, take regular breaks so that your dog can get comfortable and stretch his legs in the fresh air! The use of a pet crate, guard or dog safety restraint such as the CarSafe harness is recommended for keeping your pet safe and under control when in the car.”

 Top tips for driving with your pet:

  1. Don’t feed your dog within two hours of starting a long car journey as this may make him feel carsick.
  2. It is a good idea to pack a favourite toy or blanket to give your pet a sense of familiarity.
  3. Make sure fresh and preferably cool water is always readily available.
  4. Use sun shades on the windows when it is hot or the sun is bright. Sitting in a patch of blinding sun and being unable to move is no more comfortable for your dog than it is you!
  5. Never leave your dog in a hot car! Dogs can become dangerously overheated inside a parked vehicle and at risk of dehydration, sunstroke or even death. When the outside temperature is just 20 degrees the temperature inside a closed car in the sun can rise to 45 degrees in minutes.
  6. Always carry a large water bottle (5 litres minimum) in case your dog overheats and needs to be rapidly cooled in an emergency.
  7. Don’t allow your pet to ride with his head hanging out of the window, this is potentially dangerous and he could be injured.
  8. Always leave a lead on your dog in the car so he can be instantly controlled in an emergency situation. It is wise to train your dog to wait to exit the car until told as you don’t want him bounding out of the car in a busy area.
  9. Many dogs suffer from anxiety when travelling, so keep initial journeys short for puppies and extend them as they mature. If your dog continues to show anxiety during travel seek the advice of a canine behaviourist.

 

Driving with pets % of drivers
I’ve taken my eyes off the road 40%
I’ve had to perform and emergency stop 17%
I’ve had a near miss with another car/pedestrian 14%
I’ve had to swerve suddenly on the road 11%
The car crashed 7%
The pet escaped from the car 4%

Source: uSwitch.com research April 2017

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— ends —

Notes to editors

Research was conducted by Opinium from 21st April to 24th April 2017 among 2,005 UK adults with a driving licence.

  1. When asked “Have you ever travelled with a pet/animal in a car?”, 69% answered “Yes”
  2. When asked “When travelling with pet(s), do you use of any of the following to secure them?”, 262 respondents of total sample answered, “I don’t use anything/the pet is loose”. 262 respondents = 19%
  3. When asked ‘Have you ever been distracted by a pet in the car while driving? E.g. a pet jumping on you while driving or making loud, distracting noises” 119 respondents answered, ‘yes on one occasion and 116 respondents answered’ ‘yes on more than one occasion’. 119 + 116 respondents = 235. 235 respondents = 21% of 1,098 who have travelled with pets and drive.
  4.  When asked “When travelling with a pet in the car, have you ever experienced one or more of the following?, Of the respondents who had been distracted by their pet while driving 40% answered “I’ve taken my eyes off the road because I was distracted by my pet” and 17% answered “I’ve had to perform an emergency stop because I was distracted by my pet” and 14% answered ‘I’ve had a near miss with another car/pedestrian’ and 7% answered ‘the car crashed because I was distracted by my pet’ 14% + 7% = 21%
  5. When asked “Which of the following statements do you believe to be true?”, 34% answered “There is nothing in the Highway Code regarding travelling with animals.”
  6. The Highway Code (Rule 57) states that any animals travelling in a moving vehicle must be properly restrained – “When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly. A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.” (Source: GOV.uk)
  7. When asked, “When travelling with pet(s) in the car, where do they tend to sit?”, 13% answered “On the passenger seat, next to the driver”
  8. When asked “How often, if at all, do you tend to let the pet stick their head out of the car window?”, 69% said ‘Never. 6% answered “Often”, 14% answered “Sometimes” and 12% answered “Rarely”. 429 respondents = 31% of sample.
  9. When asked “When travelling with pet(s), do you use of any of the following to secure them?”, 15% said ‘The animal is held by a passenger’.
  10. When asked, “Which of the following animals have you travelled in a car with?”, 70% answered “Dog”, 37% answered ‘Cat’ ,8% answered “Rabbit, 6% answered “Fish”, 2% answered ‘Parrot’ and 1% answered ‘Snake’.

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