Ever thought how dangerous an unrestrained pet is in a moving vehicle? Did you know that a 35lb dog can become a 2700lb projectile in a 35mph crash? It's alarming to think of the damage that poor animal could do to itself and other passengers within the vehicle. As increasing numbers of pet-owners take to the roads with animals in tow, safe pet travel advisers Bark Buckle Up and web-based automotive information company, Edmunds, have joined forces to release their Top Ten Pet Safe Vehicles in the hopes that their advice may avert some tragedies.
Most of America's 71 million pet-owners will take their animals for a drive even if it's only to the vet for an annual check-up. Other owners like taking their pets with them whenever they can. Some contractors travel with their dogs daily. (Some drivers should use their mutts as seeing-eye dogs—but that's another story). Seriously, how many pet-owners are taking unnecessary risks with their pets' lives—and their own—by letting them travel unrestricted inside their vehicles? According to Bark Buckle Up's figures, about 98 percent of dogs travel unrestrained in moving vehicles, leaving both pets and the passengers vulnerable.
Apart from the injuries pets can cause and sustain in an accident, agitated and confused pets involved in crashes can impede emergency services' rescue efforts, particularly if the traumatized pet needs to be restrained before attention can be given to injured humans. Pets roaming freely on a road or highway after an accident only further heighten the incident of additional chaos.
In an effort to reduce unnecessary injury and death to pets and human occupants in vehicles, Bark Buckle Up and Edmunds have selected America's ten best vehicles based on the criteria of which ones are best suited for transporting you and your animal companion in safety. They include features like storage compartments, fold down rear seats, adequate climate control, pet barriers and wide access doors.
Top ten vehicles (in alphabetical order): 1. Dodge Journey The Journey makes the grade thanks to its in-floor storage bins that provide a safe place for any loose objects in the vehicle. And its reversing camera can be used to avoid backing over unsuspecting pets. An in-dash cooler can be used to store beverages, medicine or pet food; while an LED rechargeable flashlight and steering-wheel-mounted controls are deemed useful in lessening driver distraction.
2. Ford Flex The Flex provides larger dogs and their crates more room to maneuver and wide door openings make getting in and out easier. Other bonuses include a refrigerated console and five-star crash test scores.
3. GMC Acadia Tri-zone climate control in the Acadia ensures pet comfort in the rear of the vehicle where animals are often subjected to severe heat. Acadia also offers a direct link to poison control via its OnStar feature (many animals are injured each year from ingesting potential pet poisons like antifreeze, chocolate and tea), and rear fold-flat seats accommodate travel for larger pets and their crates.
4. Hyundai Tucson The Tucson also takes advantage of automatic climate control and fold-flat rear seats, and remote keyless entry is helpful if your hands are full managing a dog on a leash. Privacy glass helps keep temperatures cool in back.
5. Jeep Liberty The Liberty offers specialized pet travel gear, including crates, carriers and a ramp. Arthritic pets will love the ramp, as will larger dogs. This gear can be used with all vehicles in the Jeep line-up. Other useful features include a split-folding rear seat and keyless entry is available.
6. Kia Borrego Full-length side curtain airbags with rollover sensors in the Borrego can keep both pets and their owners safe. This SUV also has a back-up warning system and rear camera display.
7. Mazda 5 Grand Touring Minivan The Mazda 5 has a great feature: easy access via dual sliding rear doors (with a one-touch walk-in feature) and a low cargo floor. The doors on this minivan help with pet access and save your back when securing them. The Mazda 5 also earned five-star crash test scores and has side curtain airbags in all three rows. It also has tethers and anchors in both the second and third rows — helpful since pet safety seats need to be secured in much the same way as a child's.
8. Mitsubishi Outlander Apart from side airbags, five-star crash test ratings and steering-wheel-mounted auxiliary controls, the Outlander also has fold-flat seating and stowable third-row seats (which increases the amount of room available for larger pets), as well as more than a dozen storage compartments.
9. Subaru Tribeca Pet-owners should take advantage of the Tribeca's five-star crash test scores, steering-wheel-mounted auxiliary controls and rear back-up camera.
10. Volvo XC70 Synonymous with safety, the XC70 has a Volvo-designed pet barrier. This is not a one-size-fits-all system with suction cups and Velcro—it's been crash-tested by Volvo to remain intact in a collision. The barrier may be installed by the dealer, and is bolted securely into the vehicle. The XC70's blind spot warning system is also helpful, as a large pet in back can sometimes impede visibility.
So, when purchasing your next vehicle, consider these additional safety tips for you and your traveling companions. And if your current vehicle isn't on the list, take heed of the some of the safety criteria that proved positive in the report and see what you can incorporate into your ride.
Finally, for safety's sake, keep your pets restrained. Then, if someone asks, "who let the dogs out?" you can honestly say it wasn't you.