Driving with a dog in the car helps reduces stress behind the wheel and encourages safer driving according to new research by Seat UK.

The Spanish firm's study revealed that more than half of the dog-owning drivers surveyed (54 percent) said that they drive more carefully when travelling with their pet in the car with them – particularly with younger drivers with 69 percent of motorists aged 18-24 said they drive more carefully with their dog in the car.

Older drivers meanwhile were at the other end of the spectrum, with 42 percent of over 55s saying that they were more cautious when their dogs were in the car.

Drivers in London and the North East were most likely to behave differently with their dog was in the car, with 70 percent and 66 percent respectively saying it would make them more careful behind the wheel.

Dog sitting in a car with animal seat belt

What's more, having a dog in the car also had the added benefit of reducing driver stress levels, with 35 percent of those surveyed saying that they feel calmer when their dog is in the car.

However, despite all of this, many dog owners are unaware of the laws around travelling with dogs in the car. More than a third said they were unsure if there are any rules at all, while 90 percent said that they didn't know about the maximum nine-point penalty and £5,000 fine for driving without due care and attention when driving with a dog.

Dog with head out car window enjoying wind

A fifth of dog-owning drivers admitted that they don't restrain their dogs in the car, so there could be millions out there flouting the law.

"Everyone knows the British public is passionate about its dogs, however, this study confirms that having their best friend in the car can contribute to safer driving while also having a positive mental health benefit by reducing stress levels. It appears to be a win win," said Nigel Griggs, head of aftersales at Seat UK.

"Motorists still need to make sure they’re keeping their dogs safe while travelling too, and finding comfortable and secure in-car pet accessories to properly restrain pets is as important as using your own seat belt."