It's the same for a lot of dog owners, in fact, in one of our previous surveys we discovered that 1 in 3 pet owners admit to letting their pets ride shotgun or let them take over the back seats; however, in the unfortunate event that your car were to break down and leave you stranded on the hard shoulder of the motorway, would you take your dog out of the car to stand behind the guard rail with you? Logically, you would, right?
WRONG! According to section 56 of the Highway Code.
Highway Code Rule 56
"Do not let a dog out on the road on its own. Keep it on a short lead when walking on the pavement, road or path shared with cyclists or horse riders."
You're actually supposed to leave your pets inside your car, unless it is not safe to do so. The reason you should leave your dog inside your car is to ensure that they don't distract other drivers. Even on a leash, if your dog were to get overly excited and run towards a live motorway lane motorists may briefly panic and make a manoeuvre in that split second. This can incur a fine of £2,500 and up to 6 penalty points on your license.
It's also worth noting that if your car needs to be towed away, it's up to the discretion of the recovery vehicle driver as to whether they let your dog join them in the cabin. Some drivers may refuse, as they are ultimately responsible for the safety of themselves and their passengers and therefore don't want to deal with the possibility of a misbehaving dog.
Dogs can be just as distracting to yourself as they are to other motorists. Leaving your dog unrestrained can be disastrous if they start panicking. In fact, millions of drivers are unknowingly breaking the law and leaving themselves open to a fine of up to £5,000 and nine points on your licence, under rule 57 of the Highway Code:
Highway Code Rule 57
"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 stop quickly. A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars."
In the event of an accident, if you (or rather, your dog) were found to be the cause of the incident due to causing a distraction, the failure to comply with this section of the highway code can be used as evidence in court under the Traffic Acts to establish liability and your own insurance company may not pay out. Breaking the rule in itself won't actually lead to prosecution as the Highway Code isn't a legally binding document, however most of the rules written within are backed up by legislation in various Traffic Acts.