(StatePoint) Pets are beloved members of many families. In the U.S alone, about 85 million families own a pet. According to the American Pet Products Association, many of us also drive with our furry friends, from quick trips to the veterinarian’s office to longer road trip adventures.

A recent national survey by Erie Insurance found that more than half of its respondents plan to take at least one road trip this year and 4% plan on traveling with pets. However, traveling with an animal can be dangerous if appropriate safety measures are not taken.

Celebrated in May, this National Pet Month is a good time to brush up on a few safety precautions:

Tips for traveling with a dog:

1. Restrain your pet. A proper restraint will protect your dog if an accident should occur. The Center for Pet Safety recommends using a quality crash-tested harness to keep your dog safe.

2. Rein in your pooch. Allowing your dog to stick their head out the window is more dangerous than it seems. It can cause road debris to get into their eyes, nose and mouth and potentially lead to serious injuries.

3. Minimize distractions.Erie Insurance found in its recent national survey that 5% of respondents are distracted by their dog when driving. To avoid disruptions, keep them in the back seat and never allow your dog to sit on your lap. Use a barrier to avoid a dog making its way to the front, and avoid feeding and playing with your dog while driving.

Tips for traveling with a cat:

1. Use a proper carrier. Cats become easily stressed when traveling. To keep them safe and comfortable, you’ll want to place them in a sturdy carrier that provides enough room for them to move around.

2. Practice safe exits. Only let your cat out of the carrier when parked. Make sure your cat is wearing a harness and leash before exiting the vehicle. Should your cat get startled and run, a harness and leash will allow you to rein them in, keeping them out of harm’s way.

General tips for traveling with pets:

1. Never leave a pet in a hot car. Leaving any kind of pet alone in a vehicle is extremely dangerous. According to the Humane Society of the Unites States, a vehicle’s temperature can quickly exceed 120 degrees in warm weather, leaving your pet at risk of brain damage, heat stroke and suffocation.

2. Be prepared in case of emergency. Should anything go wrong, plan to contact a nearby vet. Healthypet.com allows you to search by ZIP code for American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) accredited clinics.

Even when taking appropriate precautions, accidents still happen. An auto insurance policy can protect you financially and provide peace of mind. Some companies, including Erie Insurance, offer coverage to help with vet treatment costs if your pet is hurt in a car accident.

“We recognize that pets are a valued part of many families,” said Jon Bloom, vice president of personal auto at Erie Insurance. “This is why we believe it’s so important to include pet coverage in our auto policy.”

To protect your beloved companions and your vehicle, talk to an insurance agent or visit ErieInsurance.com.

This National Pet Month, be sure you have all the know-how needed to comfortably and safely take any length car trip with your pet.

Photo Credit: (c) AndreyPopov / iStock via Getty Images Plus

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