Thursday, January 28, 2010

Unrestrained pets in cars a safety issue

Your pet dog could literally become a dangerous missile in a car crash if it’s left unrestrained. Police and the SPCA are urging people to restrain animals in cars while driving to prevent harm to both passengers and pets.

Serious crash unit sergeant Paul Latham says unrestrained animals become "projectiles" in crashes, whether they’re in the front seat or back.

"If your pet’s on your lap you are more likely to do more damage to the animal as it will hit the windscreen," he says.

"If it’s unrestrained in the back it becomes a real hazard to the driver.

"If the pet’s an alsatian or a labrador, that’s a lot of weight coming from the back and if you’re travelling at 50kmh that weight’s going to be heading towards you at that speed."

Mr Latham says it’s difficult to tell the extent to which unrestrained animals actually cause serious crashes.

"Particularly fatal crashes ... but we can see there’s an animal in the car and that the driver has lost control at some point. An animal distracts people. And distraction’s probably the most dangerous thing."

While there are no laws requiring people to restrain animals in cars the Road Code does stipulate that "holding a package, person or animal in your lap or arms when driving is dangerous".

"And anything on the back tray or shelf of a car is a weapon," Mr Latham says.

SPCA inspector Vicki Border puts her dog George in a dog restraint while she’s out investigating animal cruelty cases.

"It’s crazy to drive and have your dog on your knee. It’s very similar to having a baby on your lap – would you risk that?

"If you brake suddenly the dog will go through the windscreen.

"I’d love to see it be compulsory for dogs to be restrained to avoid injury to the dog or distraction to the driver."


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