Safety First

Study: Unrestrained pets cause heart rate spikes, increase likelihood of a fatal car crash

We now know how much of a distraction unrestrained pets cause, thanks to a new study from The Harris Poll and Volvo Car USA.

Photo by Getty Images

Fido may love to hold his head out the window and sniff every passing car and yard as you drive by, but this is not safe for you, him, or anyone else on the road. A new study provides quantifiable proof of the hazards of driving with an unrestrained pet.

Volvo Car USA and The Harris Poll conducted an online survey in March 2019 and an observational study from June-July 2019 to assess the impact of unrestrained pets – pets not restrained with a seat belt or harness or in a crate or carrier while in a moving vehicle. For the study, 15 licensed drivers who each drive with their dog at least 25 minutes per day were observed for an average of 2 hours each, for a total of about 30 hours of total study time.

Restrainted Pets seat belt safety harness Pets that were restrained while in the car proved less of a hazard to drivers, the study found.Photo courtesy of Volvo Car USA

The dogs were restrained for 56 percent of the time and unrestrained the rest of the time.

The results of the survey and study were published in Volvo Reports: Keeping Pets Safe on the Road. The study found three reasons why not restraining your pet is detrimental.

It increases unsafe driving behaviors.

During the half of the study when the dogs were restrained, 16 hours 48 minutes, there were 274 instances of the dogs doing something unsafe such as putting their head out the window or climbing on the driver's lap. This comes out to an average of 16.3 instances of unsafe driving behavior per hour – about once every 3.5 minutes.

For 13 hours 12 minutes of observation time the dogs were unrestrained and racked up 649 instances of the dogs doing something unsafe – an average of 49.2 instances of unsafe driving behavior per hour, nearly once every 1.2 minutes.

This showed that unrestrained dogs were three times more likely to exhibit unsafe behaviors than restrained dogs while riding in a vehicle.

It increases driver distraction.

When not restrained, dogs can do things such as jumping from one seat to another, which often results in the driver focusing on their pet and not the road. Unrestrained dogs resulted in 3 hours 39 minutes of distracted driving over the course of the 13 hours 12 minutes (27.7% of the time).

Restraining dogs cut distracted driving to 1 hour 39 minutes over the course of the 16.8 hours (9.8% of the time).

The results indicated that drivers whose pets are unrestrained are 2.8 times more likely to be distracted are drivers whose pets are restrained.

Unrestrained pets Unrestrained pets cause a major distracted driving hazard, a new study has revealed.Photo courtesy of Volvo Car USA

According to the National Highway Transportation Administration 3,000 people die each year from distracted driving. Erie Insurance, in conjunction with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, analyzed 2010 and 2011 Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) crash data and found that a moving object (such as a pet) is one of the top ten distractions involved in fatal car crashes.

It increases stress on dogs and drivers.

According to the website Dogtime: "Puppies can have resting pulse rates of 160 to 200 beats per minute when they are born, which can go as high as 220 beats per minute at two weeks of age. Up to 180 beats per minute may be normal until a year of age. Large adult dogs can have a resting heart rate of 60 to 100 beats per minute, while small adult dogs can have a normal heart rate of 100 to 140 beats per minute."

When not restrained, dogs' heart rates were faster than their normal heart rates by 7 beats per minute. This may not seem like much, especially for puppies who already have high resting pulse rates, but why add stress to your pet unnecessarily?

Likewise, drivers were also more stressed when their dogs were not restrained. The average human heart rate is 60-100 beats per minute. When their dogs were not restrained, the drivers' heart rates increased by 28-34 per minute, as much as 1.5 times higher than normal.

Unrestrainted pets Volvo is one of the auto manufacturers now offering pet-specific restraint systems that can be purchased with and installed in a new vehicle.Photo courtesy of Volvo Car USA

In a press release, Dr. Elisa Mazzaferro, Staff Criticalist at Cornell University Veterinary Specialists, urges the importance of restraining your pets in the car.

"While pets roaming around the car can be cute and convenient, it poses a serious risk for both drivers and their pets, both in terms of causing distractions and increasing the chances of serious injury in the event of an accident. Unfortunately, in my field, we see the potential devastating consequences regularly, many of which can [be] avoided by simply ensuring our animals are safely secured."

The Volvo Car USA/The Harris Poll report found that "32% of pet owners have left a dog at home because they felt their car was not safe enough" and "77% of Americans says people don't vehicular dog safety seriously enough".

Lindsey Wolko took her pet's safety in the car seriously – she bought her dog Maggie a safety harness. Maggie was wearing this safety harness when Wolko was driving and had to brake suddenly, but the harness didn't work properly and Maggie was injured. Through this experience, Wolko was inspired to found The Center for Pet Safety (CPS), a non-profit research and consumer advocacy organization, in July 2011.

Volvo pet safety rear carrier Volvo's pet safety system is mounted directly to the frame of the vehicle giving it a high level of structural integrity.Photo courtesy of Volvo Car USA

CPS crash tests pet car safety restraints. Restraints which meet CPS's standards are approved as CPS Certified. CPS has only third-party restraints on its list, yet some vehicle manufacturers are also creating pet car safety restraints.

Volvo has a line of pet safety accessories which includes a dog gate, dog harness, load compartment divider, and protective steel grille. These accessories integrate into the car's safety system. For each one of these accessories sold, Volvo donates $10 to The Petfinder Foundation, which promotes pet adoption.

The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E is here.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

After years of development, test mules, and spy shots, Ford has finally pulled the wraps off its long-awaited Mach E all-electric crossover. Set to go on sale in late 2020 and early 2021, the Mach-E made its debut in Los Angeles just days before the 2019 L.A. Auto Show. Here's a quick look at everything you need to know.

There will be five variants (and lots of numbers).

Select: Available in early 2021, this base model will start at $43,895 (all prices exclude $1,100 destination and any state or federal tax incentives). The Select will come with rear-wheel-drive and 230 miles of range, while the AWD will have 210 miles of range. Both versions will have 255 horsepower; RWD will have 306 pound-feet of torque and AWD will have 417 pound-feet of torque. It's worth noting that this is the only Mach E variant that will not allow for 150kW DC fast-charging so beware if fast-charging is your jam.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E The rear of the Mustang Mach-E has some of the design hallmarks of the Mustang coupe.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Premium: This second-tier version will be available in late 2020 and will start at $50,600. It will come in standard range or extended range as well as RWD or AWD. Standard range will have 230 miles of range in RWD guise; 210 miles in AWD. Extended range will have 300 miles of range in RWD, 270 miles in AWD. Standard-range models will have 255 horsepower, extended-range RWD will have 282 horsepower and extended-range AWD will have 332 horsepower.

California Route 1: This trim level is essentially the Premium Extended Range RWD plus some added options, so its number line up: 300 miles of range and 282 pound-feet of torque. It will start at $52,400 when it goes on sale in early 2021.

First Edition: This limited-edition model starts at $59,900 and will be available in late 2020 (order soon). It features similar specs as the Premium Extended Range AWD: 270 miles of range and 332 horsepower. It also adds a variety of interior and exterior trim upgrades and limited availability to the mix.

GT: It's the big daddy of the Mustang coupe lineup (excluding Shelby versions) so it's the big daddy here. For $60,500 buyers get AWD, 235 miles of range and a healthy 459 horsepower and 612 pound-feet of torque, good for 0-60 runs in the mid-three-second range. This version adds the requisite 20-inch forged wheels, Brembo brakes, an adaptive Magnaride suspension, and exterior trim upgrades.

Gobs of tech will be standard.

This includes a 15.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system (ala Tesla) that will run Ford's Next-Generation Sync operating system and will feature over-the-air updates (also ala Tesla). Drivers will have the option of using their smartphone as a key; the Mach E will detect phones paired via its bluetooth system and unlock and adjust settings to that driver's preference.

The Mach E Premium and GT models also come pre-hardwired with a driver-monitoring system, which Ford will activate at a later date to provide a hands-free driving system. The system uses an infrared camera mounted on top of the steering column to watch the driver's attentiveness.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E The interior is sparse in design but full of high-tech features.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Three drive modes are included.

Here's another Tesla-inspired feature: three drive modes that alter the nature of the Mach E's performance. 'Whisper,' 'Engage' and 'Unbridled' will each allow increasingly aggressive performance and handling features. Not unlike Tesla's well-documented Ludicrous mode. Fun fact: the 'Unbridled' mode in the Mach E was originally to be called 'Stampede' and one of the test-mules we rode in on a media briefing in LA last week still had this setting name. Within each drive mode, numerous elements of the Mach E will be configurable, including regen levels for one-foot driving, if drivers so choose.

Yes, there's a Frunk.

Would it be an EV without one? But Ford says theirs is better since it has a drain plug at the bottom; apparently owners of other EVs told Ford researchers that they often found themselves wanting this.

Room for everyone.

The Mach E seats five adults comfortably, with plenty of legroom and headroom for the six-footers out there (we know since we've sat inside). This, despite the sloping, coupe-like profile of the crossover. Most models also come with a fixed panoramic glass roof that does wonders for opening up the cabin.

The Nissan Titan has been significantly refreshed for the 2020 model year.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Forget the challenge of having the fastest lap around the Nürburgring. There may be no greater feat in the automotive industry at the moment than gaining full-size truck market share from the Big Three. That's exactly what Nissan is aiming to do with its refreshed 2020 Titan.

To get to the 2020 Nissan Titan, the automaker listened to its customers, who were vocal about a number of issues they had with everything from the truck's infotainment system to the dealership experience.

2020 Nissan Titan PRO-4X Nissan has given the PRO-4X trim a distinct new exterior design.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

On the outside of the truck there are more differences between trim levels than before. The PRO-4X grade is the most aesthetically robust with a big, black grille that features a blacked-out Nissan logo for the first time alongside 18-inch wheels; lava red badging, stitching, and tow hooks; and a skid plate. Other trim levels got flashy chrome trim and new chrome grilles.

There are numerous other highlights of the refresh. The Titan's new headlight design doubles the light output on low beams and reduces the glare for oncoming traffic. There are new LED fog lights that add an additional 15 degrees of visibility. Nissan has also given the Titan an available panoramic moonroof that is the largest in the segment. The company also employed new acoustic laminated glass to keep road and engine noise at bay.

2020 Nissan Titan Platinum Reserve headlights front Nissan showed off their new LED headlight design as part of the first drive event.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Each trim level of the Titan is powered by a 400-horsepower 5.6-liter V8 engine that has 413 pound-feet of torque. That's a significant upgrade from the 2019 model and makes the engine the most powerful base offering of all full-size pickups. In testing on the roads and trails of Utah, Titan's nine-speed automatic transmission was sufficiently smooth shifting and its improved ratios worked in the Titan's favor. With 4,500 pounds of weight towed behind the truck and when traveling up steep off road climbs, the 2020 Titan did not show any strain while being tested.

2020 Nissan Titan Platinum Reserve With its powertrain enhancements, the Nissan Titan didn't flinch when towing 4,500 pounds.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Inside, the Titan is improved where it matters. A new 9-inch touch screen is available and features the latest version of Nissan Connect and hardware. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard. The system looks good, especially in its handsome housing, and works as advertised with much more responsiveness and quicker command activation than what you'll find in any other Nissan infotainment system to date.

Nissan has included numerous safety and driver assistance technologies in the Titan as part of the automaker's commitment to what they call "intelligent mobility." Automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear automatic braking, high beam assist, lane departure warning, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, and eight airbags are standard equipment on every 2020 Titan.

2020 Nissan Titan infotainment screen system The truck now comes with an available 9-inch infotainment screen.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

With the revisions, the Titan is a complete package that doesn't feel left behind. It's not as nice on the inside as the Ram 1500, nor is it as easy to drive. It's also not as capable as the Ford F-150. However, the Titan is nicer all-around than the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, mainly because of its interior.

Pricing and fuel economy numbers will be released closer to the model's on-sale date in early 2020. Those factors will be the tipping factor as to whether or not Nissan truly boast about its improvements and value. Either way, the Titan is worth cross-shopping, especially if you're getting into a full-size truck for the first time.