Texting or cell phone use, talking to someone in the car, eating, and fumbling with the radio are listed as the top distractions for drivers. But there is another distraction that is rarely mentioned although almost as common: driving with an unrestrained dog as a passenger. Not only is this dangerous for the dog, but it can become a huge distraction for the driver, which can lead to deadly car accidents.
Few Use Pet Restraints
It’s noted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA) that there are an estimated 78 million dogs living in more than 46 million U.S. homes. A majority of those dog owners say they drive with their dog in their car, but only 16 percent of the owners say they use some form of pet restraint while driving. What makes this even more dangerous is that 70 percent of drivers surveyed said they engaged in at least one distractive driving activity with their dog in the car, such as:
- Petting their dog
- Using their arm to keep a dog from climbing in the front seat or to restrict movement of their dog when they brake
- Allowing their pet to sit in their lap while driving
- Giving treats or playing with their pet even while driving.
Considering that in 2015 nearly 3,500 people were killed and another 391,000 injured in car accidents due to distracted driving, you can see why having an unrestrained animal in the car is cause for concern.
When Dogs Fly, Watch Out
Pet expert Cesar Millan is just one of many animal authorities who say restraining a pet in a moving vehicle is vital to the safety of everyone in the car. One of the dangers of having an unrestrained pet is if you are in a car accident your pet may become a projectile. Consider this:
- If you have a 10-pound dog and get into an accident going 50 mph, the dog becomes 500 pounds of force.
- An 80-pound dog in a car involved in an accident at 30 mph, becomes a force of 2400 pounds.
Options for Vehicle Pet Restraints
The easiest way to restrain your pet in a car is to put the animal in a pet carrier. There are a number of carriers on the market, and some have even been crash-tested. You can also buy crash bags that are placed in the carrier that can absorb some of the force when the car is braking.
Pet barriers can be a good choice if you have an SUV. The barrier keeps the dog in the very back of the SUV; in the event of an accident, the barrier will keep the dog from flying toward the front of the car. There’s also a variety of dog car harnesses that use the vehicle’s seat belt to secure an animal in the backseat.
So, the next time you get in the car with your dog, make sure he is buckled in or placed in a carrier, even if you are just running errands. This will keep your four-legged friend safe, as well as other passengers in the car.