Highlands & Islands Regional MSP and road safety campaigner, David Stewart highlights a rule and law that constituents may not be aware off whilst driving with their pet in a car.
David said ” We all love our pets who after all are our companions and in many cases the pet wants to go where ever the person in charge of it goes. However, did you know that rule 57 of the Highway code states: “When in a vehicle, make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves if you have to stop quickly.” A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.
” I am aware that some organisations are advising that this is the law and a driver contravening it could get nine points on their licence and a fine of up to £2500. This is not in fact correct. The rule 57 of the Highway code is advisory and yes you could get charged with careless driving if the Police deemed your ability to drive safely was impaired and you were deemed to be driving without due care and attention due to your pets activity whilst unrestrained in the car. The charge in these circumstances would be one of Careless Driving. This would not of course apply if the pet was sitting or lying down well behaved. Notwithstanding this actual fact, pet owners who value their companions should always consider utilising a seat restraint harness or putting their pet behind the dog guard in the rear of the vehicle for the safety and well being of all concerned.
David concluded ” I am not being alarmist, that is why I am pointing out that you do not get prosecuted under contraventions of the Highway code but under the Road Traffic Act 1988. The Highway code does relate to the Road Traffic Act where sections of the Highway code stipulate ‘you must’ or ‘must not’ – However, road safety is always high on my agenda and the safety of all occupants of vehicles and other road users is paramount. So if at all possible always place your pet in a seat restraint or behind a dog guard, especially if it is boisterous and moving about freely. This is the safest option.