These days, more pets than ever are traveling in vehicles; unfortunately, though, most drivers aren't taking the steps necessary to ensure that this travel is safe both for them and their pets. Most of these animals ride unrestrained, increasing the risk of pet injury or fatality during an accident. The animals aren't the only ones at risk: If you have an accident at 35 mph while toting your 60-pound unrestrained dog, your pet is capable of causing an impact of up to 2,700 pounds, slamming into the seat, the windshield, or even a passenger. If your unrestrained pet survives the crash, Fido or Fifi may impede or slow the progress of rescue workers, who'll need to secure the traumatized animal before treating human victims.
Bark Buckle Up is committed to informing pet owners about the dangers of unrestrained pet travel. The organization tracks in-depth statistics regarding pet safety, and works with police and fire departments as well as the general public to promote safe pet travel. As part of its Pet Safety Program, Bark Buckle Up and Edmunds.com have collaborated to determine the 10 vehicles whose features make them best suited for transporting you and your animal companion in safety. The top choices are listed below, in alphabetical order.
- Dodge Journey: To ensure the safety of drivers, passengers and pets, all gear should be secure when driving, and the Journey offers in-floor storage bins that elegantly achieve this objective. Sadly, many pets are injured by drivers who unknowingly run them over while reversing — the Journey offers a rearview camera that helps drivers avoid this tragedy. Other available features include an in-dash cooler that can be used to store beverages, medicine or pet food; an LED rechargeable flashlight; and steering-wheel-mounted controls (useful in lessening driver distraction).
- Ford Flex: Larger dogs and their crates will be comfortable in the roomy Flex; the crossover offers ample legroom and wide door openings for easy ingress and egress. Other pluses include a refrigerated console and five-star crash test scores.
- GMC Acadia: Tri-zone climate control is available in the Acadia. This feature is important in SUVs, station wagons and minivans; it helps monitor temperature in the rear of the vehicle, thus ensuring that pets secured in back aren't exposed to extreme heat. The Acadia also offers a direct link to poison control via its OnStar feature (many animals are injured each year from ingesting potential pet poisons like antifreeze, chocolate and tea), along with rear fold-flat seats that accommodate travel for larger pets and their crates.
- Hyundai Tucson: Turn to the Tucson for pet-safe available features like automatic climate control and fold-flat rear seats. This Hyundai also offers remote keyless entry (helpful if your hands are full managing a dog on a leash) as well as privacy glass that helps keep temperatures cool in back.
- Jeep Liberty: The Jeep brand offers specialized pet travel gear, including crates, carriers and a ramp. The ramp is useful for larger dogs, as well as older and/or arthritic pets. This gear may be used with the Liberty and all vehicles in the Jeep lineup. Other useful Liberty features include a split-folding rear seat and available keyless entry.
- Kia Borrego: Full-length side curtain airbags with rollover sensors can keep both pets and their owners safe, and they're offered in the Borrego. The SUV also offers a back-up warning system and rear camera display.
- Mazda Mazda 5: Three words: sliding rear doors! The Mazda 5 offers easy-access dual sliding rear doors with a one-touch walk-in feature. These doors simplify pet access, and make it a breeze to secure them. The minivan is also notable for having earned five-star crash test scores and for having side curtain airbags in all three rows. Its low cargo floor facilitates easy pet access, and the Mazda 5 also has tethers and anchors in both the second and third rows — helpful since pet safety seats need to be secured in the same way as a child's.
- Mitsubishi Outlander: Side airbags, five-star crash test ratings and steering-wheel-mounted auxiliary controls are all part of the Outlander's arsenal of available offerings. The SUV also boasts fold-flat seating and stowable third-row seats (both of which increase the amount of room available for larger pets), as well as more than a dozen storage compartments for your gear and your pet's.
- Subaru Tribeca: Pet owners will appreciate the Tribeca's five-star crash test scores, steering-wheel-mounted auxiliary controls and rear back-up camera.
- Volvo XC70: The XC70 is available with a Volvo-designed pet barrier. This is not a one-size-fits-all system with suction cups and Velcro — this is the real deal. Many pet barrier systems are not designed to remain in place during an accident; this system — crash tested by Volvo — has been created to remain intact in a collision. The barrier may be installed by the dealer, and is bolted securely into the vehicle. Another great feature is the XC70's blind spot warning system. A pet in back can sometimes impede visibility — as a result, any safety feature that helps with blind spots is a big plus.
Copyright Edmunds.com, Inc. All rights reserved. First published on www.edmunds.com and excerpted with permission. http://www.edmunds.com/reviews/list/top10/155306/article.html