Unrestrained Dogs in Cars Create Serious Risk of Accidents

Driving with dog in car law

We love our pets as much as anyone, but we know that when pets travel with us in a car or truck, they must be crated or restrained, or they can cause a car crash.

A recent study from Volvo Car USA and The Harris Poll says both drivers and pets are stressed when pets roam free in a moving vehicle and drivers commit significantly more unsafe driving actions.

The study, which followed 15 drivers and their dogs for more than 30 hours on the road, said that examples of dog behavior that create driver distractions include a dog climbing on a driver’s lap, jumping from seat to seat or hanging its head out the window.

Dr. Elisa Mazzaferro, president of the American College of Veterinary Emergency & Critical Care, said that having an unrestrained pet in a vehicle increases the likelihood of distracted driving and of serious injury in the event of a crash.

“Unfortunately, in my field, we see the potential devastating consequences regularly, many of which can avoided by simply ensuring our animals are safely secured,” Mazzaferro said in a statement accompany the study.

As car accident attorneys in South Carolina, the lawyers at Joye Law Firm see the devastating consequences of distracted driving, as well. Dealing with a pet while driving is among many potential driver distractions that contribute to thousands of car accidents and injuries in South Carolina every year.

Pets Don’t Belong Behind the Wheel

driving cross country with a dogThe AAA auto club says its survey showed that 84 percent of respondents had driven with pets on a variety of car trips, but only 16 percent used any form of pet restraint system when driving with their dog.

Other survey findings indicate that the danger of driving with a dog in the car is real:

  • 29 percent of respondents admit to being distracted by their dog while driving.
  • 65 percent have displayed at least one distracted behavior while driving with their dog:
  • 52 percent have patted their dog while driving.
  • 17 percent allowed their dog to sit in their lap.
  • 13 percent of drivers admitted giving food or treats to their dog while driving.
  • 4 percent acknowledged playing with their dog.

“All these behaviors can distract the driver and increase the risk of a crash,” AAA says.

Orvis, a retailer that sells hunting equipment, points out that in addition to being a distraction, an unsecured dog can become a projectile in a car accident and cause serious injury — or death — to the dog and/or passengers in the car.

Few States Address Restraining Pets in Vehicles

Despite what many suggest is the obvious danger of a pet essentially running free in a moving vehicle, few states have laws that prohibit driving with an unrestrained dog in your vehicle. South Carolina has no such law.

“Some states, including Arizona, Hawaii, and Connecticut may charge a driver under distracted driving laws if he or she drives with a dog in their lap. Drivers in Los Angeles may be ticketed for driving at an unsafe speed if they’re caught with a dog in their lap — the LAPD states that no speed is safe with a pet in your lap.”

Driving with unrestrained animals in the car could fall under state animal cruelty laws in some locations, Orvis says.

Orvis says there is some language in South Carolina laws that indicates you should not drive with an unrestrained dog in your car.

A survey of legislation by the Go Pet Friendly blog suggests South Carolina drivers risk a ticket for negligence or another offense when driving with a pet in their lap if a law enforcement officer considers the situation unsafe.

Lance Cpl. David Jones of the S.C. Highway Patrol told The State newspaper in 2018 that he has responded to crashes in which dogs were a distraction. “The first thing (the driver) will say is that the dog was in the back seat and jumped into their lap.”

Options for Restraining Dogs Riding in Cars and Trucks

There are numerous options for restraining pets in vehicles, including pet seat belts, harnesses, crates and carriers.

Volvo, the unrestrained pets study sponsor, makes safety accessories for pets, as do many companies. Volvo pet accessories, which directly tie into the safety systems of their cars, include a dog harness, load compartment divider, dog gate and protective steel grille.

Safety-certified, crash-tested crates are the best option to ensure your dog’s safety when traveling. Make sure to select the right size crate for your dog and that it allows good air circulation for the dog’s comfort, the site says.

AAA says seat belts designed for dog limit a pet’s ability to distract the driver, restrict pet movement in a crash, and mitigate the force of impact suffered in a crash. The Sunday Times of London says in its discussion of the Volvo study a restrained dog should travel on the back seat behind the front passenger seat and never behind the driver, where it could grab ahold of clothing and/or otherwise cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle.

Contact Joye Law Firm’s Car Accident Attorneys

Joye Law urges that all drivers properly restrain and protect their pets to prevent pet-related distracted driving accidents.

Joye Law Firm is a longtime supporter of various animal causes, including the Charleston Animal Society. In 2019, the law firm received a community ambassador award recognizing exemplary support for the Animal Society. Over the past 12 years, Joye Law Firm has contributed more than $50,000 to activities conducted by the Animal Society.

If your life has been shattered by an injury caused in an accident caused by another driver, our South Carolina personal injury lawyers can help you put the pieces back together. We can help you recover financial compensation for the full extent of your losses.

Find out how we can help you. Call (877) 937-9707 or use this online contact form to set up a free and confidential legal consultation.