Is It Safe for Your Dog to Sit in the Passenger Seat?

There is a romantic feeling about hitting the road with your adorable dog as your co-pilot – even if you drive to the grocery store. However, this is actually a big no-no, as you are not doing yourself or your dog any good by offering them your passenger seat. Read along to find out three car safety reasons why you should never let your pup sit in the front, no matter how much the dog insists.

How to keep your dog safe in the front passenger seat

A dog staring out the window in a car from the passenger seat
A dog staring out the window in a car | Gerardo Vieyra/NurPhoto via Getty Images

1. Buckle up

Using restraining devices for your dog is the same as fastening a seatbelt for your child.  Because a dog can’t be strapped to a seatbelt like a young child, there is a wide variety of harnesses and other similar devices manufactured to ensure the safety of your dog.

2. Crate

Transporting your dog in a crate is an added measure of safety. Dog crates come in handy when traveling long distances. Crates allow dogs to take a nap and relax without posing a distraction to the driver. 

3. Turn off airbags

If you allow your dog to ride shotgun, you are advised to turn off the passenger airbags. The airbags are very powerful when deployed, and that is why it is highly recommended for children to ride in the back seat.

Why is it unsafe for your dog to sit in the passenger seat?

1. Accidents

Accidents happen, and they can happen in a split second. As PureWow highlights, while your dog may want to ride shotgun with you, the front passenger seat is a hazardous spot for your pet. 

The risk of a catastrophic accident is increased by the lack of restraints for your dog.  In most cases, the dogs allowed to ride at the front are not harnessed. This means that in the event of an accident, there will be a high likelihood for the dog to be thrown through the windshield or around the vehicle, causing serious injuries to the dog and other passengers on board.

2. Airbags

In the same way they are unsafe for young children, front airbags can pose significant harm to your dog. The American Veterinary Medical Association highlights that a dog seated in the passenger seat or the driver’s lap can be gravely hurt or even killed by an airbag.

3. Dogs are a source of distraction

 While it may appear cute, having your dog in the front seat while driving is a risk to you, the dog, and any other person around. Yet, according to AAA reports, approximately 29% of dog owners admit being distracted by their dogs while driving. An unrestrained dog plus a distracted driver is a recipe for a catastrophic disaster. 

It is illegal to have a dog in the front seat in some states because it is considered a source of distraction. According to Maine, Massachusetts, and Connecticut laws, traffic police can ticket a driver if their dog is in the front seat, diverting the driver’s attention off the road.

The bottom line 

It is never a good idea to let your dog travel in the front passenger seat, no matter how adorable they are.  To ensure your dog is safe while traveling in your car, always keep them restrained, most preferably in the backseat. Also, do not let the dog stick its head too far out the window. This way, you will lessen your chances of being distracted, and you will be more likely to avoid a potential crash.

As mentioned, every state has different laws regarding carrying dogs in the car. Are you aware of your laws?  While a few states have laws prohibiting unrestrained dogs from riding in the car, other states use ambiguous language that requires traffic police to make a judgment call if an unrestrained dog in the vehicle is causing distracted driving. Lastly, it is important to get a car that is designed for both you and your dog.

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