Dogs dangerously distract drivers, study finds

Dogs dangerously distract drivers, study finds

Your dog may love the open road, but allowing him to ride shotgun could spell trouble for you or other drivers.
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Aug 17, 2011
By dvm360.com staff

A recent AAA survey of America’s drivers reveals some dangerous driving habits, and we’re not talking about applying mascara or talking on a cell phone while cruising down the freeway. An increasing number of dogs accompany today’s pet owners on road trips, day trips and local errands. But this can result in added distractions for the driver and added dangers for passengers, including pets.

The AAA survey asked dog owners how often they drive with their dog and examined their habits behind the wheel. The results indicate drivers not only love to bring dogs in the car, but they often engage in risky behaviors when man’s best friend is along for the ride.

Motorists frequently bring dogs along, engaging in distracting behaviors. Nearly 56 percent of respondents have driven with their dog at least once a month in the past year. However, many participate in behaviors that take their attention away from the road, like petting their dog (52 percent of respondents reported doing this). Nearly 23 percent have used their hands or arms to hold their dog in place while braking, and 19 percent have used their hands or arms to keep their dog from climbing into the front seat.

Drivers admit dangers of unrestrained pets, but most don’t use pet restraints. Eighty-three percent of respondents acknowledge that an unrestrained dog in a moving car can be dangerous, but only 16 percent currently use a pet restraint system. However, use of a restraint is three times greater among drivers who have heard of situations where unrestrained dogs were injured or caused injury to other passengers in a car crash (32 percent) compared to respondents who were not aware of such a situation and still use a restraint (9 percent).

Calm dogs and lack of awareness top pet owners’ reasons for not using a pet restraint. More than 42 percent of respondents say they do not use a pet restraint because their dog is calm and they do not think he or she needs a restraint. However, a calm dog will be thrown with the same amount of force as an active dog in the event of a crash or sudden stop—a danger for all passengers as well as the pet. According to AAA, an unrestrained 10-pound dog in a crash at only 30 miles per hour will exert roughly 300 pounds of pressure, while an unrestrained 80-pound dog in a crash at only 30 miles per hour will exert approximately 2,400 pounds of pressure.

Advise your clients to restrain their dogs in the car and refrain from engaging in distracting behaviors while driving—and make sure you do the same when you take your dog along for the ride.

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