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How Many Dogs Die in Car Accidents Each Year? Vet Approved Facts & FAQ

Written by: Misty Layne

Last Updated on April 30, 2024 by Dogster Team

man dog owner is grieving or sad or crying sitting on a bench

How Many Dogs Die in Car Accidents Each Year? Vet Approved Facts & FAQ


Dr. Lauren Demos  Photo


Dr. Lauren Demos

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Did you know that it’s estimated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that 42,939 people died in car accidents in 2022?1 Have you ever wondered how many canines were involved in those car accidents? Just how many dogs die in car accidents each year?

Unfortunately, no one keeps statistics on how many dogs die each year in car accidents (though the American Humane Society has estimated that roughly 100,000 dogs die every year from riding in truck beds.)2 What we do know is that, according to an American Automobile Association survey, 80% or more of those with pets drive with their pets in the car.3 Out of that 80%, only 16% use safety restraints with their canine companions. With that information, it could be safe to assume that the number of dogs who die each year due to car accidents could be fairly high.

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How Do Dogs Get Injured in the Car?

Though car accidents may be one of the most significant ways a dog can be injured in a car, there are actually many other ways they could get hurt or die in a vehicle.

Car Accidents

As we’ve ascertained, many dog owners don’t restrain their dogs during car trips, which leaves the dog wandering around the car. And dogs wandering from seat to seat or jumping into laps randomly can be a huge distraction on the road. Distracted driving is responsible for 25%–30% of car accidents each year, according to the CDC4, so driving with an unrestrained canine is a considerable risk.

When a car accident occurs, our pups can be injured in multiple ways. A dog that isn’t safely buckled in can be tossed about the car or even thrown through a window. If a canine is thrown like that, it isn’t only dangerous for them, it’s hazardous for the human passengers in the car, too.

Dogs can get crushed by a crumpled dashboard or seat, too, and be trapped and injured. And if a dog does make it safely through a car crash, they might be so frightened that they run away from the wreck, resulting in them getting lost. Or they could run straight into oncoming traffic and get hit by another car.

If you aren’t already securing your pup into the car, please start doing so.

grieving owner holding the collar of her dog
Image Credit: Soloviova Liudmyla, Shutterstock

Car Windows

Why do dogs like to hang out the window of the car so much? Most likely, it’s because they get a nice breeze on their face, can smell everything there is to smell and see everything around them. It’s a sensory delight for your dog to stick their head out the window! But is it safe? How many dogs fall out of car windows a year?

Unfortunately, that’s another statistic that is unknown, but dogs falling out of car windows is something that can and does happen. If you take a turn too quickly, go over an area that’s extremely bumpy, or just have a hyped-up dog, it’s easy for a canine to fall out a window, and you can imagine how dire the consequences can be.

Something else to consider before letting your dog stick their head out the window? All the debris flying around outside. With all that wind whipping around while you drive, debris, dirt, rocks, and other such things are flying around, too. All of those can get into your dog’s eyes, leading to irritation, scratches, and even punctures. Plus, think about the chance of a flying object hitting them; if something fell off a vehicle in front of you and flew towards you, it could knock into your dog pretty hard, depending on what the object is.

But wait, that isn’t all! Were you aware that power windows can exert a force anywhere between 30 and 80 pounds? If your dog steps on the button to roll the window up while they’re hanging their head out the window, they could easily be injured, or worse.

As much fun as windows are for our pups, it’s best not to let your dog stick their head out.

Gear Switch

You already know you shouldn’t leave a pet unattended in a vehicle because of the risk of heatstroke or the chances of your car being stolen with them in it. Something you might not have thought about, though, is that your dog could knock into the gearshift and set the vehicle in motion. With no driver and no way to stop the car, you have a disaster on your hands.

dog in a car wearing harness
Image Credit: Aleksey Boyko, Shutterstock

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How Can I Keep My Dog Safe in the Car?

You can help keep your dog safe in the car in many ways.

These tips will help immensely in preventing them from falling out of windows and should keep them safer in a car accident:
  • Make sure your dog’s ID tags are up-to-date and properly attached. This will help in case your pup gets separated from you after an accident.
  • Always secure your dog inside your car during travel! Larger dogs may do better in a crate, while smaller dogs can be safely buckled in with a harness designed for canine car rides, though more research is needed to prove the safety and standardization of these devices.
  • Ensure your dog has been properly trained. A dog who knows and obeys commands such as “stop” or “stay” will be much safer than a canine who doesn’t.
  • Never let your pup stick their head out the window!
  • Don’t let your canine pal sit in your lap while you’re driving. They could get bored and slip off your lap to play down by your feet, getting in the way of the car pedals.

Essentially, if you have properly secured your dog and don’t let them stick their head out the window, they’ll be much safer in a car accident!

Woman Fastening Dog In Car With Safe Belt In Seat Booster
Image Credit: Andrey_Popov, Shutterstock

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

You might have more questions about dogs and car safety, so here are a few questions people often ask.

What are the most common injuries dogs get from car accidents?

There is a plethora of injuries a dog can obtain in a car accident. These include whiplash, lacerations, abdominal trauma, broken bones, internal bleeding, and pulmonary damage.

What do I do if my dog dies in a car accident?

Your dog dying in a car accident will be a heartbreaking experience, but there will be a few things to do if this happens. The first is contacting your vet as they can confirm that your dog has passed and document this for any insurance claims. Depending on who is at fault for the accident, you may also need to report the accident and gather documentation for liability or compensation issues.

What can influence whether a car accident happens or not?

Car accidents can have various influences. These include the time of day you’re driving, whether you’re driving in a city or rural area, the season in which you’re driving, your behavior while driving, your dog’s behavior while riding, and the type of vehicle you have. There are a variety of factors at play when it comes to whether a car accident occurs.

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Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, our canine companions can die just as easily in car accidents as we can. However, we have no way of knowing just how many dogs die in car accidents each year, as no one keeps track of those statistics. What we do know is that approximately 100,000 dogs die from riding in truck beds, about 80% of drivers drive with their pets, and roughly 16% of that 80% are properly securing their dogs while driving. All that adds up to a huge risk for dogs when it comes to car safety.

When you also consider just how many things can go wrong when it comes to dogs and cars, the situation becomes that much scarier. Luckily, you can do several things to keep your dog safe while they are riding with you—mainly ensuring they are properly restrained and not letting them stick their head out the window. By taking safety precautions, your pup should be much safer when they travel by car, and everyone will be much happier!

Featured Soloviova Liudmyla, Shutterstock

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