Drivers in Wales could face fines of thousands of pounds as police say they have noticed an “extremely dangerous and particularly concerning” trend. Road Safety Wales – a partnership set up by different bodies including police forces to improve safety on Welsh roads – has said that officers have noticed an increase in small dogs travelling in cars while unsecured, and at times even on the driver’s laps.
This is in clear contravention of the Highway Code, which states that unrestrained pets could cause accidents, near misses or emergency stops. The code itself says: “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.”
Breaking the Highway Code doesn’t carry a direct penalty, but drivers can be fined £1,000 on the spot if they are deemed to have been guilty of careless driving. And depending on the severity of the offence, the fine can rise to a maximum of £5,000 together with a penalty of nine points on a driver’s licence if the careless driving is judged to be particularly severe. In extreme cases, the incident could also result in a driving ban and a compulsory re-test.
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A spokesman for Road Safety Wales said over the weekend: “Our police colleagues have observed small dogs travelling while sat on the driver’s lap, something which is extremely dangerous and particularly concerning. It is essential that drivers secure their pets correctly – you are protecting them, yourself and other road users.” In response to a tweet sent by the organisation, one person replied that they recently witnessed a Jack Russell “standing across a dashboard” of a car at a busy roundabout in a Welsh town.
With regards to where your dog should be restrained, there is something of a grey area with regards to whether pets should be in the back seat or the passenger seat of a car. Car expert Mark Tongue at Select Car Leasing said: “Many owners are left confused as to whether dogs are allowed in the front seat or not. 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.”
Meanwhile, a money expert has said that driving with a dog in the car could cause issues when making an insurance claim in the event of an accident. You can get the latestWalesOnline newsletters emailed to you directly for free by signing up here.
“While driving with your pet in your car – whether in the boot or on a seat – might seem like a harmless way of getting from A to B, the truth is you can risk invalidating your car insurance,” explained Rachel Wait from MoneySuperMarket.
“If you’re in a prang with an unrestrained pet in your car, insurers may use it against you regardless of whether it was as a direct result of the animal itself. So it’s worth being on the safe side and making sure ‘man’s best friend’ is properly restrained. Always read your policy in full to make sure you have the correct level of cover for your needs. If not, shop around to see if you are getting the best deal – you could save up to £245 per year simply by switching provider, and it doesn’t take long to do.”