Driving lesson

Driving with your pet in the car could land you a £5,000 fine and invalidate your insurance

Pet-loving Brits are risking hefty fines and voiding their insurance by driving with loose animals in their car.

Creatures of all shapes and sizes have hitched a ride in owners’ cars, but unrestrained pets could cause crashes, near misses, or emergency stops.

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Dogs are the most commonly transported pets, but they can distract the driverCredit: Getty Images

Pets are often seen as an extension of the family, so they are regular passengers in vehicles on our roads.

But nearly two-thirds of UK motorists are unaware that driving with an unrestrained pet can result in a fine of up to £5,000 for careless driving.

According to a study conducted by Confused.com, more than half of drivers with pets don’t realize that letting their pet loose in the car can also invalidate their insurance.

The study found that one in 10 drivers have had an accident while traveling in a car with a pet, or know someone who has.

While one driver reported his dog jumping out of a window while stationary at traffic lights – and another was fined for letting his dog climb up the front.

It’s not just dogs either, cats are just as dangerous. A driver reported that his moggy settled into the floor next to the pedals after falling out of its box.

By letting pets ride a shotgun or hang their heads out of windows, millions of drivers are unwittingly breaking the law and exposing themselves to fines, points and invalidated insurance.

Rule 57 of the Highway Traffic Act states: “When you are in a vehicle, ensure that dogs or other animals are properly restrained so that they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you or themselves if you stop quickly.

“A seat belt harness, pet carrier, crate, or dog guard are ways to restrain pets in cars.”

TOP TIPS FOR DRIVING WITH YOUR PET

  • The Highway Code recommends using a “seat belt harness, carrier, dog crate, or dog guard” to restrain pets in the car
  • Experts believe using a cage or crate in the trunk is the safest way to transport your pet
  • Do not feed your pet within two hours of starting a long car journey to avoid motion sickness
  • Bring a favorite toy or blanket to give your pet a sense of familiarity
  • Use sunshades on windows when it’s hot or sunny and never leave a pet in a hot car
  • Always carry a large bottle of water (5 liters minimum) in case your pet overheats and needs to be cooled quickly in an emergency
  • Do not let your pet stick their head out of the window as it is potentially dangerous and may cause injury

(Source: The Company of Animals)

And although disobeying the rules of the road carries no direct penalty, drivers could be stopped by the police and fined up to £1,000 for driving without proper supervision if their pet distracts them. .

This could be escalated to failing to drive with due care and attention (reckless driving), which carries a maximum fine of £5,000 and nine penalty points if the matter goes to court.

In extreme cases, the incident could also lead to a driving ban and a mandatory retest.

To make matters worse, your insurer is likely to refuse payment in the event of an accident, leaving you with a large damage repair bill.

Amanda Stretton, car editor at Confused.com, said: “Many drivers will be joined by four-legged companions on their journeys across the UK.

“But handlers have to strap their dogs in properly, otherwise they

could face fines of up to £5,000.

“Driving with an unrestrained pet can also invalidate your car insurance, meaning you will personally have to pay for repairs in the event of a claim.”

We previously revealed the cheap £7 item that could save you hefty fines when driving with your pet.

Ford has released a dog crate suitable for its all-new Ford Focus station wagon.

And Tesla has introduced “dog mode” to its electric fleet, allowing pet owners to safely leave their furry friends locked in their motor.