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Motorists face £5,000 fine(1) for risking pet’s safety when behind the wheel

More than a third (36%) of owners admit to not using pet restraints when driving, putting them at risk of a hefty fine

Published on 13th April 2022
  • Pets are a roadside companion for motorists at least once a week (19%), but more than 1 in 5 (21%) owners say they’re unsure about pet restraint laws.
  • With more than 2 in 5 (41%) drivers planning to take their fur babies on holiday for the first time, confusion on how to travel with pets is evident.
  • Common ways pet owners plan to travel with their pet for their upcoming trip include on the backseat of their vehicle without any form of restraint (25%), in the passenger footwell (18%) or in a bed or blanket (18%).
  • Confused.com’s guide on how to keep pets safe when on the road can help clear up any confusion and ensure pets enjoy their holiday travels too.

Motorists risk driving fines of up to £5,000(1) for not prioritising their pet’s safety before setting off, new research finds.

More than a third (36%) of drivers who own and travel with their pet admit to previously driving without properly restraining them. That’s according to new research by Confused.com.

Eased pandemic restrictions and warmer weather means UK roads are expected to get busier over the Easter weekend as the bank holiday approaches. But pet owners are being urged to think about road safety as it’s revealed that motorists aren’t always following the law around restraints.

Driving with your pet in tow seems to be popular. Almost a fifth (19%) of drivers admit to travelling with their pet at least once a week or several times a week (15%). The most popular pets for motorists to travel with come as no surprise, with dogs a leading favourite (68%) and cats most commonly second choice (27%).

But the latest research reveals that more than 1 in 5 (21%) pet owners are unsure about the laws on pet restraints when driving. And as motorists might start thinking about planning holidays it seems that there are still lessons to be learned when it comes to pet safety.

With many people buying pets during the pandemic, it’s no surprise that more than 1 in 7 (14%) drivers plan to get away with their pets this year, with more than 2 in 5 (41%) travelling with their pet for the first time. On average, pet-loving drivers plan to travel around 88 miles, on average. With potentially long journeys ahead for both, there are huge concerns as the data gathered by Confused.com shows that safety rulings are not always followed. That’s despite 7 in 10 (70%) motorists knowing that it’s illegal to travel without appropriate pet restraints.

The research also showed that a quarter (25%) of motorists plan to keep their pet on the backseat of their vehicle without any form of restraint. Others said they’d put their pet in the passenger footwell (18%) or in a bed or blanket (18%). Drivers also admitted that their pet would be sat on a passenger’s lap (14%) or placed in the front passenger seat without a restraint (14%). Shockingly, 1 in 7 (14%) said they were planning to have their pet sit on their lap when driving. The research by Confused.com found drivers are confused about the driving law around pet restraints. The statistics really speak for themselves.

While it might not seem a big deal to let your pet freely roam when you’re driving, the consequences might be worse than you think. The Highway Code states that when in a vehicle, drivers must ensure that, “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.”

Drivers who are found travelling with their pets unrestrained risk points on their licence and fines of up to £5,000. To clear up confusion on pet restraints, Confused.com offers how to keep pets safe when on the road. And it’s with good reason, as the research shows that pets who are left to their own devices when travelling have often caused quite a commotion. So, just how naughty are our pets when drivers are behind the wheel?

Our beloved pets have been known to stick their head out of the window (21%), dirty the vehicle interior (21%) or jump on their owner’s lap (17%) when driving. Pets have also reportedly jumped into the vehicle footwell (16%) or run around the vehicle (15%). But things have gotten messy too, quite literally. More than 1 in 7 (15%) motorists admitted that their pet was sick or went to the toilet when they were driving. With their pets let loose, drivers said that they’ve had to:

  • Pull over to calm their pet down (21%)
  • Physically hold their pet down (18%)
  • Swerve to avoid an accident (17%) due to being distracted when driving.

And these stats come as no surprise. Fewer than 1 in 10 (9%) pet owners admit that they trust their pet to be well-behaved when travelling unrestrained.

It might seem that letting your pets travel unrestrained is a more comfortable option for them. But it’s clear that driver’s have faced a number of issues by doing so. While some experiences may have been minor, these could have easily led to something more severe. This is why pet owners should be mindful of the law that’s currently in place.

Confused.com car insurance expert, Alex Kindred said: “Our latest research found that more than a fifth (21%) of pet owners are unsure about the driving law when it comes to pet restraints. Although our furry companions might be good company when on the road, it’s clear from our research that the rules aren't always taken seriously.

“Pet restraints are a legal requirement and are important for the safety of all road users. To put it simply, if you’re distracted by your pet when driving, you could be responsible for causing a serious accident. And if your pet is found to be unrestrained, this could result in points on your licence or fines of up to £5,000.

Our research also found that almost 1 in 6 (16%) of motorists don’t think unrestrained pets can invalidate insurance, but this is untrue. Insurers are unlikely to approve your claim if they find you’ve been driving carelessly. To ensure you’re compliant with the Highway Code, you can travel best with your pets by:

  • Using a pet restraint or seat belt;
  • Using a cage/carrier or;
  • Using a safety guard in the boot of your car

All of these methods are legal and the safest way of travelling with your pet. Our guide on how to keep pets safe when on the road can advise motorists further and ensure that no matter if you're furry or not, everybody enjoys the ride.”


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About Confused.com

Launched in 2002, Confused.com was the UK's first digital marketplace for car insurance and is one of the leading brands in the sector, generating over one million quotes per month. It has expanded its range of comparison products over the years to include home insurance, van insurance, motorcycle insurance, and car finance comparison, as well as a number of tools designed to save consumers money.

Confused.com is not a supplier, insurance company or broker. It provides an objective and unbiased service. By using cutting-edge technology, it has developed a series of intelligent web-based solutions that evaluate a number of risk factors to help customers with their decision-making, subsequently finding them great deals on a wide-range of insurance products, financial services, utilities and more. Confused.com’s service is based on the most up-to-date information provided by UK suppliers and industry regulators.

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