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.

Ford trucks reigned supreme over the last decade.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

For decades, Kelley Blue Book has been studying auto sales trends and reporting on those findings. To mark the close of the decade, 2010-2020, KBB looked back at the numbers for the last 10 years and found some surprising things.

The single best sales month was December 2016.

Nico Rosberg 2016 F1 Champtionship

Photo by Getty Images

There was a lot going on in 2016, not the least exciting of which was Nico Rosberg wining the F1 Championship. Automakers sold more vehicles in 2016 than they did at any other point during the decade. The December 2016 sales capped off a record year. Here's the top five months over the decade by volume:

  • December 2016: 1,683,408
  • March 2018: 1,648,222
  • May 2015: 1,634,833
  • December 2015: 1,634,329
  • August 2019: 1,632,287

Subaru might have had the best decade of everyone.

2020 Subaru Outback

Photo courtesy of Subaru of America, Inc.

Sure, Ford sold a lot of trucks and Nissan saw tremendous early-decade growth in its SUV lineup, but Subaru is the real winner. In 2010, Subaru sold 263,000 vehicles in the U.S. By the end of the decade, in 2019, they sold 700,000. They probably would have sold more but they scaled back production to launch two new vehicles at the end of the decade.

Most forecasts were wrong about December 2019, but that doesn't mean it was a great month.

2020 Ram 1500

Photo courtesy of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V.

Analysts forecasted weak sales for the last month of 2019 but the market surprised them delivering a strong result. However, December 2019 was only the 26th best-selling month of the decade according to KBB, which measured 1,506,401 units sold. See the best-selling trucks of 2019 here.

Volvo's best month was the last month of the decade.

2019 Volvo XC60

Photo courtesy of Volvo Car Corporation

Volvo left the decade with the best month it has had in 10 years. The company sold 12,360 units. However, Volvo had higher sales in the months prior to the Great Recession.

Ford delivered the highest monthly sales total of all automakers in the last 10 years.

2019 Ford Focus

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

While some may bemoan the Blue Oval's current state of automotive affairs, they had a really great month five and a half years ago. In May 2014, Ford sold 244,501 vehicles, roughly 15.5% of the entire industry's sales for the month. In that single month, Ford sold more vehicles than Smart did in the entire decade. See the best-selling new cars of 2019 here.

Buyers are spending more on their cars than ever before.

2020 Toyota Highlander

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

According to KBB, "At the end of 2011, the average transaction price (ATP) for a new vehicle in the U.S. was near $30,000. In February 2015, ATP for the month was above $33,000 for the first time ($33,056). It broke through $35,000 in June of 2017, and passed $37,000 later that year, in December when transaction prices commonly peak due to the high volume of luxury vehicle sales. Transaction prices were above $38,000 through the final three months of 2019. The Kelley Blue Book ATP in December 2019 was $38,767 – the highest point in the past decade."

See the best-selling new SUVs of 2019 here.

Tesla came to play.

2019 Tesla Model3

Photo courtesy of Tesla

In 2010 and 2011, Tesla wasn't really on anyone's radar and now it's a household name. KBB estimates that Tesla sold 12 vehicles in June 2012. They reached 10,000 in sales per month in March 2018 and hit peak monthly sales in December 2018 when 32,600 vehicles were sold.

High-performance cars were costliest in January 2019.

2020 Ferrari Roma

Photo courtesy of Ferrari N.V.

Everyone seems to drive a Toyota RAV4 or a Honda Civic. For the select few wealthy enough to enjoy the fruits of the Acura NSX, Ford GT, and anything with a horse logo on it, this decade was kind for options but expensive. KBB says that in January 2019, the ATP for the segment peaked for the decade at $121,739.

With the Trump Tax Cuts came more fleet sales.

2019 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

According to KBB, "Six of the Top 10 best months for fleet sales in the past decade occurred after the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. In May 2019, an estimated 425,000 vehicles were sold to fleet buyers, a record 27 percent of total U.S. sales. Fleet, it's worth noting, generally accounts for 20% of sales in a given month."

There was never a time in the last 10 years that the Ford F-Series was not the best-selling vehicle in the U.S.

2020 Ford Super Duty

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ten straight years of month-to-month dominance. Muhammed Ali wasn't even that good. Ford has sold 7,578,608 F-Series pickups in the last decade - one every 41 seconds. The best month for the F-Series was December 2017 where, in a single month, the company sold 89,385 F-Series trucks.

Volvo is giving away $1 million in new cars if someone scores a safety during Super Bowl LIV.

Photo courtesy of Volvo Car Corporation

Whether you're rooting for the Chiefs or 49ers, you'll probably want to root for one of them to score a safety during Super Bowl LIV on February 2, 2020. During what the Swedish automaker is calling "Volvo Safety Sunday", if one team scores a safety during the game, random contest entrants will become winners.

According to Volvo, "A safety is a relatively rare and unpredictable scoring play in football that occurs when an offensive team is tackled, loses or fumbles the ball, or commits a penalty in their own end zone. The result of the play is two points to the defensive team, who receives possession of the ball via a free kick."

The campaign celebrate more than one million lives saved by Volvo safety innovations. The automaker has a number of safety innovations under their belt:

  • 1972: First rearward-facing child safety seat concept
  • 1991: Side-Impact Protection System (SIPS)
  • 1998: Whiplash Protection System (WHIPS)
  • 1998: Inflatable Curtain airbags
  • 2002: Roll-Over Protection System (ROPS)
  • 2003: Blind Spot Information System (BLIS)
  • 2008: City Safety collision sensing system
  • 2010: Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake
  • 2013: Cyclist Detection
  • 2014: Run-off Road Protection
  • 2016: Connected Safety (Slippery Road Alert, Hazard Light Alert)
  • 2019: E.V.A (Equal Vehicles for All) Initiative and data sharing

To get entered to win, visit VolvoSafetySunday.com and design your own Volvo car. Submit a unique configuration code as an entry between January 20, 2020 and just before kickoff on February 2, 2020 to be registered.

Entrants can choose one of any 2020 Volvo models currently available in the U.S., in any trim and color.

Full rules, terms and conditions can be found at volvosafetysunday.com. a pledge to give away $1 million in cars if a safety occurs during football's biggest night on February 2, 2020.