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7 pet safety lessons for driving

Traveling with pets

As summer approaches, many families plan to hit the highways for a road trip — and they often includes the family pet.

There are right and wrong ways for traveling with pets. Here's how to keep your four-legged friend safe in your vehicle.

1. Don't let your pet roam free in the car.

In some states, it's illegal to drive with a pet in your lap, meaning you're risking a ticket along with your safety. Letting your pet walk around the car while you drive can become a "deadly distraction" to you, according to the American Humane Association. Moreover, your unrestrained pet could get hurt in a crash.

See also: Traveling? Take 6 health insurance steps first

Yet, an AAA survey found that only 16 percent of people restrain their pet while driving. You can secure your pet in a carrier or separated cargo area, or use a specialized pet seat belt. If using a crate or carrier, make sure it's big enough for your pet to stand, sit, lie down and turn around in, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals advises. Also, secure the container so it doesn't slide if you stop abruptly.

2. Don't let your dog stick its head out the window.

Even if belted in, your dog shouldn't be able to stick any body part out of a car window.

Your pooch may love to feel the breeze through his fur, but the wind can irritate his ears and blow dirt into his eyes, according to the American Humane Association. Pets can also be injured by objects such as telephone poles as you drive down the road.

3. Don't put your pet in the front seat.

Even if your animal is restrained, the front air bag could kill your pet in a crash. So keep your pet out of the front seat, just as you would a small child. The back seat, or cargo area of an SUV, is better.

4. Don't put your pet in the bed of a pickup truck.

Traveling with your pet in the bed of a pickup truck could cause an accident and can be dangerous for the animal. The American Humane Association reports that at least 100,000 dogs die every year because they were riding in truck beds.

Don't leash your dog in a parked truck bed. The dog could jump out and hurt itself, and the sun may heat up the metal bed and burn your dog's paws.

5. Don't leave an animal in a parked car.

Even if you crack open the windows, cars can quickly get dangerously hot, the ASPCA warns. Alternatively, in the winter the car could get dangerously cold. Pets and small children should never be kept in a parked car.

6. Make sure your pet's ID is current.

Check your pet's tags and microchip information. This could be important if you're separated from your animal while far from home. Pack your pet's medical documents, such as vaccination records.

7. Give your dog regular breaks.

If you're on a long trip, stop every couple of hours to let your dog get outside and drink some water, Consumer Reports advises. Don’t feed your dog in a moving vehicle.

These tips should give you, your pet and other motorists the best chance of being safe and happy on the roads.

See also: 5 tips to keep kids from driving you crazy

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