DOGS can become killers in car crashes, safety experts are warning readers of DRIVE.

To prevent man's best friend being a danger in a smash-up, thousands of leaflets about carrying pets safely in cars have been produced by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

The leaflet, funded by the Department for Transport, explains how unrestrained pets can be hurt themselves or severely injure people in a car.

RoSPA said today that at 30mph, for example, a 50lb border collie would be thrown forward with a force equivalent to nine 12-stone men enough to kill a driver or passenger.

The society added that unrestrained pets can distract drivers and cause accidents. After a crash they could escape from the car and be hit by passing vehicles or cause collisions. Also, a frightened dog might attack a stranger going to assist an injured driver.

The leaflet gives information about safety harnesses, pet carriers, dog guards and travel cages or crates. It also gives other safety tips for pet owners, including dealing with emergencies.

RoSPA's road safety project manager Linda Morrison said: "People have been shocked by television advertisements showing a teenager not wearing a seatbelt in a rear seat being flung forward and killing the driver.

"But they don't seem to realise that the consequences can be just as horrific if a dog is unrestrained in a car.

"In a crash a pet can be like a canine cannonball. It is important that a pet is safely restrained to ensure its safety, the safety of the people in the car and other road users."

A Safety Harness

For medium or large sized dogs a safety harness that attaches to the seatbelt is best. It should go round your dog's chest, back and shoulders and be attached to the car seat belt, which should be fastened.

Before buying a harness:

Make sure it is designed to be used in a car. Check that it is suitable for your dog's size and weight and ensure it fits properly with wide straps to distribute the forces safely across your dog's body, particularly the chest and shoulders.

Try to make sure your dog cannot get entangled in the harness as this will be uncomfortable and could distract the driver.

Pet Carriers

For smaller dogs, cats and other pets, a pet carrier is a good option. It needs to be the correct size and should be held firmly in place with the seat belt or by wedging it firmly in the footwell.

Never put a carrier in the boot of a saloon car as your pet could suffocate, and avoid putting it unsecured in the boot of a hatchback or estate car, as the carrier will be thrown around in a crash.

Some owners put self-scented material at the bottom of the carrier to help keep their pet calm.

Travel cage or crate

A travel cage is suitable for dogs and larger animals. Make sure it is the correct size for your pet.

Leave plenty of space around the crate to allow for ventilation, and ensure it is secured with the seat belt. In a hatchback or estate (not saloon) car, a cage can be attached to anchorage points in the boot.

Dog guard

A dog guard will keep your pet away from the driver but it will not protect the animal in a crash. For some vehicles, accessory kits are available to help build a dog cage.

Transport in Open Vehicles

Transporting dogs in open vehicles is dangerous. The dog is exposed to the weather, to grit and debris being blown into its eyes, nose or throat and to the risk of jumping or falling from the vehicle. If there is no alternative, put the dog in a cage that will protect it from the elements, and prevent it jumping or being thrown from the vehicle. Fasten the cage securely to the vehicle or secure it with a seat belt.

Other tips

Don't let your pet stick its head out of the window because dirt and insects can get into its eyes and nose.

If your vehicle has airbags, make sure that your pet will not be struck by the airbag if it goes off.

Check that your pet is covered by insurance if it is hurt in a car accident.