Can Pets in Your Car Lead to Distracted Driving?

A lot of the focus on distracted driving centers on the dangers of cell phone use while driving. In fact, driving while using a cell phone is, indeed, very dangerous. However, driving with pets in the car can be just as dangerous for everyone on the road. There are not a lot of organizations that track crash statistics regarding auto accidents caused by pets in the car, but surveys suggest that many drivers in the NYC area have a habit of driving with a pet in the car, which may be more dangerous than anticipated.

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How Distracting Are Our Pets When We Drive?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that drivers avoid any activity which would take attention away from the road they are travelling on for more than two seconds. Any longer than two seconds and a vehicle will travel too far to notice any unexpected hazards, such as a bicyclist or another automobile. For instance, a vehicle traveling at 55 miles per hour will cross the length of a football field in only about five seconds. It’s easy to see how any distraction can become dangerous for both the driver with a pet in their car and other people on the roadways.

A AAA survey revealed that 65% of dog-owning drivers admitted to petting, holding, restraining, reaching for or taking photos of their dog while driving their car. All of these activities take a drivers attention away from the road and can lead to accidents. A driver who is distracted by a pet and causes an accident may still be liable for any damage he or she causes. A driver can be held liable for negligence or reckless driving even if the distraction is an animal as opposed to a cell phone.

Keep Your Animals Safe in the Car

A dog or cat can be thrown around the interior of a vehicle and seriously injured during a car crash. Not only is this dangerous for the animal, but it is dangerous for everyone in the car. An unrestrained, heavyweight canine can generate up to 2,700 pounds of force during an accident at 30 miles per hour. This type of force can seriously damage passengers in the car who are hit by the dog, and can also cause catastrophic damage to the animal if it hits a seat or a windshield.

Accordingly, AAA recommends that all pets in a vehicle are restrained, which will both minimize the distractions caused by the pet, and keep it safe in the event of a collision. There are many inexpensive pet harnesses, carriers, and crates for all shapes and sizes of pets, which can help protect your animal in the event of an unforeseen accident. When restraining your pet, be sure to restrain the animal in the back seat. The force of a deployed airbag can injure a pet just like it would a small child.

Everyone has a responsibility to avoid distracted driving and keep our roadways safe. Do your part by restraining your pet while driving, and make sure that both of you reach your destination safely.