Almost a third (29%) of van drivers are risking a fine of up to £5,000 and potentially invalidating their insurance for not safely securing their dogs while driving to work, according to research by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles*.
The study revealed 41% of van drivers who own dogs prefer to take them to work rather than leave them home alone or with a dogsitter. But a third admitted to not restraining them securely, which can lead to distractions. One in 10 drivers has had an accident while travelling in a vehicle with a pet or knows someone who has**.
Rule 57 of the Highway Code states that pets must be “suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly.”
The punishment for failing to secure a dog safely can range from up to £1,000 for driving without proper control, but can be stepped up to £5,000 and nine points for careless driving. Plus, it carries the potential of an insurer invalidating your policy.
There are a number of ways to safely secure your pet in the van including a comfortably sized seat-belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or in the boot behind a dog-guard.
Dog demand is now at an all-time high, with the Dogs Trust reporting that searches for “buy a puppy” more than doubled in 2020***. Owners who have had an extended period at home during the COVID-19 lockdowns could face the potential prospect of returning to work later this year without their faithful companion by their side.
The Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles research found men are more likely to take their pets to work than women, while those working in London and Northern Ireland are most likely to bring their pets to work in their vans. Van drivers in East Anglia are more inclined to leave their dogs at home than any other region.
Kate Thompson, Head of Marketing at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, commented: “After such an extended period at home last year, we know that, now more than ever, van drivers don’t want to leave their dogs at home or with dogsitters when they go to work. It is important to be aware, however, of the risks attached whether it is distractions while driving and near misses or the possible fines attached to driving with unrestrained pets. We aim to work with our customers so they can get back on the road safely.”
Dogs Trust has a useful checklist to bear in mind when travelling with pets and to ensure drivers comply with the latest regulations:
- Safety first: Dogs must be secured in a comfortably-sized seat-belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or in the boot behind a dog-guard. These must be securely fitted and positioned so your dog can’t interfere with the driver or hang out of windows.
- Make the car an enjoyable place to be: Start by using your dog’s favourite treats to reward them for being calm whenever they’re near the car, even just walking around it to begin. Never leave your dog alone in the vehicle and always travel with water.
- Gradually introduce your dog to travelling in the car or van: Dogs need to get used to the sound and movement of the car slowly. Giving your dog extra tasty treats whenever the van starts up and starts to move means they’ll begin to associate these changes with good things happening.
- Acclimatise your dog to car journeys: Start with short, slow and gentle, familiar journeys that will allow your dog to get used to car travel in a positive way. Having a friend, who your dog knows well and is comfortable with, with you can be helpful so there is someone to be beside your dog if necessary while you are driving.
*Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles survey of 1,000 UK van drivers