NRMA Insurance Head of Research Robert McDonald said the testing was undertaken to urge pet owners to consider the safety of their pets and passengers when travelling in vehicles.
"Our tests showed that an unrestrained pet sitting on the back seat of a car can hit the dashboard with enough force to cause serious injury, even at a collision speed below 20km/h," said Mr McDonald.
NRMA Insurance tested a variety of dog safety harnesses on the market using life size and correctly weighted dog 'dummies' at speeds of up to 35km/h.
Of the 25 pet harnesses tested across a range of manufacturers, all but two failed to restrain the 'dummy', due to the use of weak plastic buckles similar to those used on most backpacks.
The only two harnesses that didn't fail were the Purina Roadie^ harness and the Sleepypod Clickit harness. Unlike the other harnesses, the adjusting buckles and webbing stood up to both the 35km/h drop test and in-car low speed crash test of up to 20km/h.
"Most people using the commonly available harnesses are doing so in a genuine attempt to keep their pets safe. However our testing has unfortunately shown that most harnesses, while effective at restraining pets, are not safety devices and do little to prevent injury in a common low speed crash.
"An effective harness is critical when travelling with a pet as it keeps the animal safe and restrained and avoids the driver being distracted while driving with the animal moving around inside the vehicle. In a collision, an unrestrained pet also has the potential to injure the other passengers in the vehicle.
"Many dogs weigh over 20kg with some over 50kg. The Purina Roadie harness proved effective at restraining dogs up to 35kg, while the more expensive Sleepypod Clickit harness tested to be more suitable for larger animals," said Mr McDonald.
Additionally, in a survey of 450 NSW dog owners, over 40 per cent admitted to the insurer that they don't restrain their dog when it's travelling in the car. Dog owners are simply placing them on the front or back seat (70 per cent), in the back luggage area (15 per cent) or alarmingly on their lap (4 per cent)*.
"Just as you restrain a child in the car, we want to urge all dog owners to consider these results and ensure their furry friend is secured safely when travelling in the car," said McDonald.
Pet owners should be reminded that a driver must not drive a vehicle if an animal is in the driver's lap - they will incur a significant fine and loss of points**.
The testing was conducted by dropping weighted harnesses at speeds of up to 35km/h. The in-car testing was conducted using a specially modified crash test car at speeds of up to 20km/h. The tests were completed at the NRMA Insurance Research Centre in Sydney.
* Based on Pure Profile research conducted in October 2013
** Rule 297 (1A), Road Rules 2008 (NSW) - www.rms.nsw.gov.au
^ The Purina Roadie will be available this month (December 2013) and for details on where to buy it, go to petlife.com.au/roadie or call Purina's Pet Care Advice Team on 1800 738 238. The Sleepypod Clickit is available now.
NRMA Insurance is a provider of car insurance, motorcycle insurance, home insurance, business insurance, travel insurance, boat insurance, caravan insurance, life insurance, income protection, security and bicycle insurance in NSW, QLD, ACT & TAS (boat and caravan insurance is not offered in Tasmania). For insurance in other states and territories visit SGIO insurance in WA or SGIC insurance in SA. NRMA Insurance, SGIO & SGIC are members of Insurance Australia Group (IAG). NRMA Motoring & Services is a separate and independent company from NRMA Insurance. Insurance (except Travel Insurance, Life Insurance and Income Protection) issued by Insurance Australia Limited ABN 11 000 016 722 trading as NRMA Insurance. When making decisions about NRMA insurance consider the applicable Product Disclosure Statement in advance.