Dog riding in car wearing a seatbelt

Unrestrained Pets Increase Stress and Distraction on the Road

A new study from Volvo Car USA and The Harris Poll revealed that allowing pets to roam unrestrained while driving led to significantly more unsafe driving behaviors, more time distracted and increased stress on both drivers and their four-legged friends.

While pets are now ingrained as essential members of the family, many pet owners aren’t keeping their safety in mind when driving with them. Volvo Reports: Keeping Pets Safe on the Road is highlighted by a unique observational study on how pet restraints affect the driving experience.

Volvo and The Harris Poll followed 15 drivers and their dogs for more than 30 hours on the road, to examine how driving with an unrestrained pet affected driving behavior vs. when an owner used restraints (e.g. pet seat belts, harnesses, crates, carriers). With pets allowed to roam freely, we found:

Unsafe driving behaviors more than doubled

- 649 instances while unrestrained vs. 274 while restrained - Includes climbing on a driver’s lap or hanging their head out the window

Time drivers were distracted more than doubled

- 3 hr. 39 min. unrestrained vs. 1 hr. 39 min. restrained - Includes dogs jumping from seat to seat or taking drivers’ eyes off the road

Stress on both drivers and pups increased

- Heart rates were likely to increase for people and pets - Unrestrained dogs measured a heart rate 7 beats per minute faster - Drivers felt calmer when dogs were buckled in, with heart rates dropping as much as 28 and 34 beats per minute

The study further illustrates the dangers to all passengers, human and canine, when drivers do not restrain their dogs. This is echoed by internationally renowned veterinarian Dr. Elisa Mazzaferro, Staff Criticalist, Cornell University Veterinary Specialists. Dr. Mazzaferro is an expert in emergency and critical care of animals.

“While pets roaming around the car can be cute and convenient, it poses serious risk for both drivers and their pets, both in terms of causing distractions and increasing the chances of serious injury in the event of an accident,” said Dr. Mazzaferro. “Unfortunately, in my field, we see the potential devastating consequences regularly, many of which can avoided by simply ensuring our animals are safely secured.”

Volvo Cars is the leading vehicle manufacturer to develop safety accessories for pets that directly tie into the safety system of the car. This integration is critical to ensuring all safety features work together to protect all occupants. These accessories include a Dog Harness, Load Compartment Divider, Dog Gate and Protective Steel Grille.

This report, Volvo Reports: Keeping Pets Safe on the Road, is the latest in a series of Volvo Reports from Volvo Car USA and The Harris Poll designed to uncover insights into the American opinion across four core themes: design, safety, technology and environment.