Crash-test dog dummies
Subaru is taking crash testing to a pet-friendly level -- they want dog dummies to be part of safety evaluations.
Automotive News reports that Subaru is funding fresh research by the Center for Pet Safety on the dangers of driving with a dog. Center researchers are, in many ways, mimicking testing done for humans by placing dog-shaped dummies in test cars and seeing how they react in crash simulations. Similar research at a government-sponsored Virginia laboratory regularly tests child seats during accidents.
In providing its support, the automaker notes that there aren't any federal standards regulating dog harnesses, tethers, nets, crates and cages sold to canine owners to protect their pets. With more information, consumers could make better decisions when safeguarding their dogs, says Subaru.
Dave Sullivan, the company's marketing, launch and strategy manager, told Automotive News that the testing is only in the early stages and "we're trying to do our best to raise the issue."
Subaru released results of the first round of testing in spring. That research showed that while many pet harnesses did a good job preventing dogs from distracting drivers, they tended to break under crash stress. And when the harness stretches and snaps, the dog is often endangered when thrown forward.
According to the report, researchers have struggled creating just the right dog dummies to reflect the many different canine breeds and sizes. For the most accurate findings, Subaru spokesperson Sheriece Matias said that "you have to create a test dog that is pretty realistic in terms of their chest cavity and their little paws."
Pets and auto insurance
Some insurers recognize that many drivers take dogs with them and now offer special auto insurance that helps cover the cost of care if pets are injured in an accident.
Progressive is credited with being the first insurer to offer pet coverage, beginning in 2007. The company's insurance policy "covers the people in the accident as well as the cats and dogs," says a Progressive spokesperson.
The pet-injury coverage is built into the company's collision insurance and provides up to $1,000 to pay vet bills if a pet is injured in an accident or during a vehicle fire or theft. Coverage also applies to cats and dogs that are in recreational vehicles, boats or commercial vehicles.
Progressive notes that you need to mention your pet's injuries when filing a claim, and then submit a copy of the veterinary bill with payment proof.
Des Toups is a writer, editor and expert on insurance, cars and personal finance. He has written extensively about all three for national publications such as MSN and major newspapers such as the Seattle Times. He has been quoted about insurance issues in The New York Times, USA Today and Kiplinger's. Follow him on Twitter @destoups.