National Puppy Day: What does the Highway Code say about pets in the car?

Blog post posted on 23/03/22 |

The Highway Code was updated earlier this year to introduce a risk-based hierarchy of road users, which places more responsibility on the drivers of larger vehicles to look after more vulnerable road users. But are pet owners aware of the rule that relates to having four-legged passengers in the car?

Drivers who travel with their dog in the car can face fines of up to £5,000 for not securing their pet. Rule 57 in the Highway Code states that pets should be “suitably restrained” when travelling in the car to make sure they do not distract the driver or injure themselves in the event of the driver having to stop quickly.

It is not a legal requirement, however, to stay safe while driving and avoid the hefty fine for driving without due care and attention, ensure your dog (or any other pet) is restrained appropriately so it doesn’t distract you or hurt you or itself if you suddenly come to a stop.

IAM RoadSmart is on hand to answer any questions on what you need to know about keeping your pet safe in the car.

What is a pet restraints in cars?

A pet restraint is either a harness which has an adapter plugged into a seat belt clip, carrier, or dog cage. All of these are classed as ‘restraints’ and help to keep your pets safe while travelling in the car. Dog car harnesses are widely available to make sure your dog’s safely strapped in. They help keep your dog in one part of the car and can stop them falling forward if adjusted correctly.

There is a vast range of goods to choose from which will enhance your furry passengers experience – Padded waterproof blankets that go over the backseats with an anti-slip underside are a good idea as they also help in keeping your car seats clean. You can also purchase linings for the boot of your car, some are even specific to make and model, a great way of helping to stop any excess hair from embedding itself in the carpet in your boot lining.

What should I do when travelling with a dog or pet in the car?

Travel essentials can make any car journey feel a little less stressful and remember; it’s important to plan your journey so you have the option to take rest breaks when needed.

Pack the travel essentials:  

• Pet food and treats
• Water and water bowls
• Waste disposal bags
• Any medications they might need
• Pet clothes for cold or hot weather
• Leads (can be handy to have a spare)
• Pet documents, such as your pet insurance phone number and their chip ID
• Toys

Does driving with a pet in my car affect car insurance?

With a properly restrained pet you should have no problems with your insurance in the event of having to make a claim. The problem comes in when the animal is not secure and could possibly be seen by the police as a contributary factor and used against you.  It is always safer to make sure your pet is restrained safely so the problem does not arise.

Rebecca Ashton, Head of Policy and Research at IAM RoadSmart, said: “We’re surrounded by distractions in our lives but when we’re driving is time to minimise all of them. The Highway Code states that ‘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’, it’s very important to make sure our pets are travelling safely when being transported in vehicles.    

“The image of a dog with his head out the window with its tongue out and its ears flapping in the wind might be seen as cute by some, however it can be very dangerous for the dog and should really be avoided.

Find out more about The Highway Code changes