never leave your dog in your lap while you drive

Many pet owners choose not to confine their pets in crates whenever they bring them into their cars. In fact, while 84% of pet owners have driven with their dogs in their cars, only 16% use any form of pet restraint system.

But while you may not see any harm in letting Fido hang his head out the window or sit quietly in the back seat, unrestrained pets can significantly increase your risk of a crash as well as increase the risk of injury to both you and your dog.

Dogs Are a Major Source of Driver Distraction

More than half of dog owners will take their hands off the wheel to pet their dogs if they’re in their cars with them, according to data collected by AAA. This should be the first indicator of how distracting dogs can be.

Unrestrained dogs will also often try to sit on their owners’ laps, which can make it harder to control their vehicles for a number of reasons, including:

  • Blocking the view out the window
  • Jostling the steering wheel
  • Requiring the driver to take their hands off the wheel to steady the dog
  • Moving the gear shift
  • Jumping into the footwell and blocking the brake and accelerator

Even dogs who are not allowed in the front seat can be a source of distraction by crying, vomiting, pawing at their owners from the back seat, or trying to jump into the front seat, all of which can cause their owners to take their hands off the wheel and eyes off the road.

In a study conducted among pet owners by Volvo, researchers discovered that when their dogs were with them in their cars, drivers spent more than twice as much time distracted, made more than twice as many driving errors, and were more stressed (as evidenced by a higher heart rate) than when their animals weren’t in their vehicles.

It’s Also More Dangerous for Your Dog

Although it’s not always necessary or possible to avoid bringing your dog in your car, it’s important for your safety, the safety of your dog, and the safety of other drivers to keep your dog properly restrained the entire time it’s in your vehicle.

Seatbelts protect people from being thrown around the cabin of their cars or thrown through a window in a crash, but unrestrained dogs don’t have any similar protection. The force of a crash can easily throw a dog, usually harming them and others in the car.

When driving at just 30 MPH, a 10lbs. dog sent flying in a crash creates the same amount of force as being struck by a 500lbs. object. At that same speed, an 80lbs. dog will hit with 2,400 lbs. of force.

Dogs riding in the front seat can also easily be killed by the airbags deploying, which are designed for adult humans (this is the same reason why small children shouldn’t ride in the front seat).

After a crash, a dog may panic and escape the vehicle, putting it at risk of being struck by passing traffic. Or, it may become aggressive, especially if it was injured, and try to attack emergency responders.

Outside of a crash, your dog can also be injured by debris kicked up by the tires of the vehicle ahead of you when it sticks its head out the window. Some dogs may also try to jump out of the window if given the opportunity, which can cause crashes when other drivers swerve to avoid them.

How to Safely Restrain a Pet in the Car

The simplest way to safely restrain your dog when in the car is to use a pet crate or carrier. However, there are many manufacturers of pet restraint systems that you may also choose to consider, such as harnesses that can be buckled into your vehicle’s seatbelt buckle, or dividers that can be placed between the front and back seats or cargo area and rear seats.

Joye Law Firm Helps Victims of Car Accidents

When your accident isn’t your fault, you are going to have a lot of medical bills, and a lot of stress, especially if your beloved pet was also injured or even killed.

We stand firm against insurance companies who try to deny injury victims the compensation they need to recover from their crashes. Contact our South Carolina car accident lawyers today for a free consultation.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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