Published: 06:00, 03 May 2021
Not buckling pets properly into the car could invalidate your car insurance or see you slapped with a fine of up to £5,000.
Whilst drivers can be meticulous when it comes to putting seatbelts on themselves or children, a failure to secure animal passengers could become a very costly mistake.
With huge increases in pet ownership since the pandemic and with many families expected to plan a holiday closer to home this year because of coronavirus, comparison service Uswitch says it expects more road users than ever to begin travelling with pets as we head towards the warmer months.
And it's not just dogs who should be suitably secure inside a vehicle.
Anything from a cat to a hamster falls under Rule 57 of the Highway Code, which says that whilst there is nothing wrong with taking your furry friend out for a drive, they must be secure in the car.
The rule, published on the government website's guide to road safety, reads: "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."
While being in breach of the Highway Code does not carry a direct penalty, drivers risk other fines and punishments should their pet be found to have distracted them when they were driving.
Motorists face being pulled over by police for not being in proper control of a vehicle or driving without due care and attention, costly offences with can carry points on a licence, may eventually lead to a driving ban and/or a fine - of up to £5,000 if a case was to go all the way to court.
And if your pet's behaviour inside the car is proven to have caused or contributed to an accident drivers might also find their car insurance becomes invalid too, as might any pet insurance policies they hold.
Joel Kempson, car insurance expert at Uswitch, advises anyone likely to drive with a pet on board this summer speaks with their insurance companies and schedules in some rehearsal journeys too.
He explained: "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.”
DogsTrust has launched its own 'Houndway Code' ahead of peak travelling periods in previous summers, in an attempt to remind drivers how best to travel with a dog on board. You can read more about that campaign here.
Breakdown service RAC also reminds motorists visiting its website, that not having their dog properly restrained could mean they risk breaking the law.
Alongside advice on selecting a good quality harness, crate or guard to keep a pet safe it also shares a number of other tips drivers may want to take on-board when travelling with animals.
Purchasing travel bowls for water, making regular stops, using window shades to block direct sunlight, paying close attention to helping furry friends relax, being mindful of motion sickness and using the car for more than vet visits to prevent animals associating journeys with distress are also all advised.