Many people enjoy summer holidays and days out with their dogs, but what happens if your car breaks down? Here are some safety tips and advice.
1. Be prepared
Before you set off, make some safety checks to reduce the risk of breaking down. For example, check your tyre pressures and examine the treads to make sure that the tyres and the spare are in good condition. In addition, check that the lights and indicators are working and the oil and water levels are adequate.
Finally, check your screenwash and top up if necessary. Fill up spare water bottles for your dogs, and check that contact details on their collars are legible.
2. Get smart!
Fully charge your mobile phone. If it’s a smart phone then it’s a good idea to download an app that can track your exact position — very useful in an emergency.
3. Check the small print!
Read through your breakdown recovery policy, particularly if you are towing a caravan or driving a motorhome. Make sure that the details and contact information for the policy are easily accessible in the vehicle.
Some recovery services have a maximum length and weight of vehicle that they can legally deal with, so check that your cover is adequate and if in doubt call your insurance company prior to leaving home. Also check what their policy is when travelling with dogs.
4. High vis
If the worst happens and your vehicle breaks down, it is always a good idea to have a high visibility waistcoat or jacket in the car that you can put on in an emergency. To be seen is to be safe!
Extra items to pack include a first aid kit, a torch, a blanket, an emergency triangle, and some emergency food items such as a packet of biscuits in case you have to wait for help to arrive.
5. Safe and secure
Never travel with your dogs loose in the car. Rule 57 of the Highway Code states: “When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained… A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.”
6. Keep control
The Highway Code states that if your car breaks down on a motorway you must leave your animals in the vehicle or, in an emergency, keep them under proper control on the verge (rule 56 of the Highway Code interprets this as being on a short lead and under control). Clip leads to the crates for easy accessibility, and keep spares under the passenger seat. When exiting a broken down vehicle always do so from the passenger side.
7. Crate wise
If you use a crate for your dog always ensure that it is good quality and the correct size. For extra safety choose a crate with double doors so that you can release your dogs from the front or the back.
Don’t pack all your suitcases and luggage tightly around the crate or this will reduce ventilation, and secure it with a seat belt. If travelling in a hatchback or estate anchor the crate to various points in the boot to keep it stable. Attach a clearly visible tag to your crate or dog guard, with contact details of your vet and who to call in an emergency.
8. Stay safe
The hard shoulder of a motorway is a dangerous place and should only be used in real emergencies. If your car is still mobile switch your sidelights and hazard lights on and get off the motorway as soon as possible.
If you have no option but to park on the hard shoulder, drive as far to the left of the emergency lane as possible and position the wheels to face the grass verge rather than the carriageway. Switch on your hazard lights and, if it’s dark, your sidelights as well.
9. Get help
When you have moved the car to a safe place call your vehicle breakdown recovery service. Provide as much information as possible and always tell them that you have a dog or several dogs with you so that they can send out a specialist vehicle if required. Most breakdown recovery companies state that it is at the driver’s discretion as to whether they will allow dogs to travel in the recovery vehicle or remain in the broken down vehicle.
10. Waiting game
While waiting for help to arrive, leave the vehicle and go to a safe place, such as up a bank or behind the barrier.
If your dog looks calm and you can safely remove him from the car and keep full control, then take him with you, but otherwise it is advisable to leave him in the vehicle rather than risk him getting loose and being hit by an oncoming car.
No recovery service?
If you break down and have no recovery service, call one of the main providers and join there and then. Alternatively, call a local garage and see if they will come out and help you, but this is usually more expensive.
Forgotten your mobile?
If you don’t have a mobile phone then carefully drive or walk to the nearest roadside emergency telephone, which will put you through to the Highways Agency.
If you are travelling alone in the dark, or have a disability that impairs your movement and you feel frightened, then call the emergency services. In addition, call some friends to let them know where you are and put out an alert on Facebook — you will be amazed at how supportive people can be.