PET-LOVING Brits are risking a hefty fine and invalidating their insurance by driving with animals roaming loose in their cars.
But what exactly does it say about having man’s best friend as a front seat passenger? Here’s all you need to know…
Is it illegal to have my dog in the front seat of my car while driving?
It’s not illegal to drive with your dog in the front passenger seat of your car, but you could still be at risk or a fine, or worse.
Drivers should still be wary of the rules of driving with pets and advice on travelling with animals.
Pets should wear a harness or seatbelt – just like humans – when the car is in motion, or you could risk huge fines and invalidation of your car and pet insurance.
The Highway Code points out that if an animal moves about during a journey it could trigger an accident.
They also warn drivers not to put their pets in the front seat for the same reason, however it is not illegal to do so.
Can I be fined for having my dog in the front seat?
You cannot be fined for having a dog in the front passenger seat of your car, assuming you are following the rules and nor driving dangerously.
You can be fined up to £5,000 for not restraining your pet, regardless of where they are in the vehicle.
This means the pet should be in a belt harness, a pet crate or cage, or in the boot of an estate car with a dividing dog guard.
Your car insurance and pet insurance could also be invalid if you don’t obey the highway code.
TOP TIPS FOR DRIVING WITH YOUR PET
- The Highway Code recommends using a “seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard” to restrain animals in the car
- Experts believe using a cage or crate in the boot is the safest way to transport your pet
- Don’t feed your pet within two hours of starting a long car journey to avoid carsickness
- Pack a favourite toy or blanket to give your pet a sense of familiarity
- Use sun shades on the windows when it is hot or the sun is bright and never leave a pet in a hot car
- Always carry a large water bottle (5 litres minimum) in case your pet overheats and needs to be rapidly cooled in an emergency
- Don’t allow your pet to ride with its head hanging out of the window, as it’s potentially dangerous and can cause injury
- You should also move the front passenger seat as far backwards as possible and disable the passenger side airbags if your pet is riding shotgun
This also means you shouldn’t let your pet have their head out of the window.
While disobeying the Highway Code doesn’t carry a direct penalty, drivers could be pulled over by police and fined up to £1,000 for driving without proper control if their pet distracts them.
That could be stepped up to failing to drive with due care and attention (careless driving) which carries a maximum fine of £5,000 and nine penalty points if the case goes to court.
In extreme cases, the incident could also result in a driving ban and a compulsory re-test.
Car expert Mark Tongue at Select Car Leasing, explains: “Many owners are left confused as to whether dogs are allowed in the front seat or not. It’s something of a grey area.
“Whilst not particularly recommended – dogs should generally be in the backseat or boot for their own safety.
“You should only ever have your dog by your side while driving if you’re able, and know how to disable the front passenger airbag, as some vehicles don’t actually have an override function.
“Failing to disable the airbag could result in catastrophic injuries for a dog.
“When an airbag deploys it does so with so much force it could even crush a dog cage.”