While Buddy, hanging his head out of the window, open-mouthed with wind in his fur hurtling down the freeway at 65 mph, or Spot, seemingly enjoying a trip in the bed of dad’s pick-up, may seem like pictures of pure bliss, well-meaning owners may be putting their daredevil pets in harm’s way. With thousands of Arizona families expected to hit the road this spring break and also starting to make summer road trip travel plans, Larry H. Miller Dealerships, in partnership with the Arizona Humane Society, is bringing greater awareness to often overlooked opportunities to keep pets safe when traveling by car, SUV or truck.

The incidence of well-intentioned acts with Fido or Kitten in the car turning into tragedies is astonishing. According to a survey by AAA and Kurgo Pet Products, only 16 percent of people who transport their dogs use proper safety restraints. Equally troubling are distracted driving habits involving pets, including more than half (52 percent) who pet their dog while driving and the 17 percent of drivers allowing their pet to sit in their lap while their attention should be on the road.

“With how much time we spend behind the wheel, our vehicles have become second homes in many instances, not only for us, but our children and pets, as well,” said Sara Waldman, director of communications, Larry H. Miller Dealerships. “While we wouldn’t think twice about allowing our children to engage in unsafe behavior while mom or dad drives, we’re hoping by sharing these tips from the Arizona Humane Society that people adopt that same safe-travel mindset when it comes to pets.” 

Regardless of the type of vehicle – car, sport utility vehicle or truck – basic rules apply to help eliminate the dangerous actions that can increase the risk of a crash or serious injury.

“When traveling with your pet, safety and comfort should be paramount,” said Bretta Nelson, Arizona Humane Society spokesperson. “A good rule of thumb is a child litmus test; if you wouldn’t allow a child to do something, your pet shouldn’t be exposed to it either.” 

Among the safe-travel tips shared by the Arizona Humane Society: 

Keep the roam in check. A small 10 lb. cat or dog can easily be thrown from a vehicle in a potential crash. Crates, especially those that are anchored to the vehicle, are key to ensuring safety for pets. While restraints or pet seat belts are helpful in keeping pets from roaming, they haven’t been reliably shown to protect pets in a crash.

Make truck travel safer. Free-range pets in the back of a truck bed is a bad idea. Notwithstanding the chance of a crash, flying debris, weather conditions and loud traffic noises that could scare a pet into jumping out of the truck, are all hazards. Tethers and leashes are not a good restraint and could be just as dangerous resulting in potential choking or dragging if a pet jumps out of the bed. Always keep pets with you in the interior of a car while traveling and never leave a pet unattended in a vehicle.

Keep cat comfort top of mind. While dogs may love the prospect of a car ride, most cats get nervous traveling. For their safety, as well as the drivers’, carriers are best. While they may not have anchors, they can be secured using a seat belt routed around the front of the carrier.

Back seat is best. It may be tempting to have your furry co-pilot ride shotgun, but the front seat is best left for humans. While air bags are meant to protect humans, they can severely injure a pet if deployed. 

Roll up the windows. Keeping precious heads inside the car is important. Oftentimes, pets who are allowed to stick their heads out of the window can be injured by debris. Keeping the windows up also prevents accidental closures that could trap a pet’s head.

Choose the right ride. Thinking of a new vehicle? Choose one that works for your entire family…pets included. A crossover, such as the Toyota RAV4 or Nissan Rogue, is great for smaller pets that may require a carrier. It gives them the space to stretch their legs on longer rides. SUVs, including the Jeep Grand Cherokee, are a good choice for larger pets and have the most room for a crate that can be secured safely. Also, think about your interior, as often leather or faux leather seats are preferable to cloth seats. 

Keep Company. Regardless of the time of year, never leave a pet unattended in a vehicle.

Autotrader recently recommended several new vehicles as top picks for pet travel. Among them are the 2018 Chrysler Pacifica and the 2018 Nissan Rogue.