Does My Pet Need a Seat Belt?

dog with head out window

Car accidents involving projectiles can be extremely dangerous. Projectiles such as rocks, debris, and other objects can cause severe damage to a vehicle and its occupants. On the other hand, the occupants themselves can become projectiles if not properly restrained. While most people in California wear seat belts (97.2 in 2021), a particular population has gone historically unrestrained in vehicles: our pets.

Animal Seat Belt Statistics

The Pet Passenger Safety Survey by AAA and Kurgo reported that only 16 percent of pet owners restrain their animals when traveling in the car. This means that an overwhelming 84 percent neglect to ensure that they are buckled in. Reasons given for not securing their animals include their pet's calmness in the car, short duration of trips, or just never having considered it. But the consequences vastly outweigh these reasons.

The above survey showed that an unrestrained 10-pound animal involved in a 50 mph car collision can exert upwards of 500 pounds of force, while an unrestrained 80-pound animal in a 30 mph car accident exerts nearly 2400 pounds of force.

If you're planning on taking a road trip with your furry friend, you should be aware of the laws in California regarding pet restraint. Pets should always be secured when traveling in a vehicle, but is it legally required? Let's take a look.

The Law: Is it Required?

The California Vehicle Code does not require animals to be restrained while riding in an automobile (unless in the back of a pickup truck). However, if an animal does cause interruption or interference with the driver's ability to operate the vehicle safely, then it will be treated as a typical distracted driving infraction leading to fines and/or points on your license. In addition, local jurisdictions may have their own ordinances that require restraints for animals while driving. Be sure to check with your city or county prior to hitting the road with your pet.

The Consequence of Not Restraining Your Pet

Whether or not there is currently a law requiring pet restraint while driving, it is wise—and even more importantly—safe to restrain pets while they are riding in the car. The following are some ways that you can keep your pet safe during travel:

  • Use crates or carriers for smaller animals like cats and small dogs
  • Invest in dog seat belts or harnesses for large dogs
  • Secure crates and carriers with seat belts so they don't slide around the car
  • Don't let your pet sit on your lap or roam freely within the vehicle

Getting Help From an Experienced Car Accident in Sonoma County

If you were injured in a car accident, the team at Flahavan Law Offices can help you obtain the compensation you deserve. We are experienced in handling car accident cases and understand the complexities that come with them. Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your case and find out how we can help you get the justice you deserve.

Call us today at (707) 414-0119 or fill out our form online for a free consultation.

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