How Pets As Passengers Can Cause Car Accidents

At the risk of ruining the fun for pet owners and pets alike, we’d like to offer a warning about the potential dangers of dogs as passengers. Many of us have dogs who beg to go along for the ride, even when we’re not going anywhere fun. Some of us do it to lessen the guilt we feel for leaving Fido behind as we run errands. That sad face as we grab our keys and head for the door gets the better of us and we invite the pooch along.

However, you could be taking unnecessary risks with his well-being, as well as your own and that of others on the road. Learn about the risks of unrestrained pets in the car and what you could do to provide a fun and safe ride for your furry friend in the future.

Risks of Pets in the Car

Your pet may keep you company as you drive around town, but he may also be the source of a dangerous distraction. An unrestrained pet can also create driving hazards and become a deadly projectile in a car or truck accident. Yet these risks don’t prevent us from driving with our pets.

According to a 2011 survey conducted by AAA and the pet travel product company Kurgo, nearly 60 percent of respondents said they travel with their dogs in the vehicle at least once a month. The survey takers also admitted to being distracted by their dogs and taking their hands off the wheel to tend to them. Over half of the people surveyed said they pet their dogs while driving, and 23 percent admit to using their hands or arms to restrain a pet while applying the brakes. Approximately 17 percent of drivers allow their dogs to ride in their laps, and 18 percent reach into the back seat to interact with their dogs while driving.

When a pet draws the driver’s attention away from the driving task, it causes a dangerous distraction. Other ways unrestrained pets create dangerous situations include the following:

  • Anxious pets may cry or whine and seek comfort from the driver.
  • A frightened animal may suddenly jump over the seat or crawl around the driver’s feet.
  • When a driver brakes suddenly, the pet can be thrown about in the car, injuring the driver or other passengers.
  • A loose pet may depress the accelerator or prevent the driver from applying the brake.

Along with the dangers to the driver and passengers, pets are in danger of being injured or killed when they’re unrestrained. They could be thrown into the windshield or dashboard in an accident; jump out an open window at a traffic stop; or be crushed by the airbag when sitting in a driver’s or a front seat passenger’s lap during a collision. Even though you bring your dog along because you love him, you may be endangering his life.

How to Keep You and Your Pet Safe

For everyone’s sake, restraining your pet when he rides in the car is the safest option. If your dog doesn’t like being restrained, he may be happier being left at home rather than taking a joy ride. If you are taking the dog to the vet, a kennel, or to the dog park, he will have to adjust to being restrained. Pets should always be in the back seat to limit driver distraction. Restraint options include the following:

  • A padded harness with a sturdy connector that attaches to the car’s LATCH system
  • A hard- or soft-sided crate, if it’s strapped down
  • A pet car seat or basket-style holder for small dogs
  • A barrier gate to restrain dogs in the cargo area of an SUV, although this option doesn’t offer the dog much protection in a crash

It’s Your Responsibility to Safely Restrain Your Pet

While there isn’t a law in Missouri requiring you to restrain your pet in a car, if it’s suspected that the pet was the source of the distraction that led to an accident, you can be charged with distracted driving. Protect yourself and your pet by using a restraint system or leaving him at home.

If you’ve been involved in a motor vehicle accident contact us online or call us directly at 888.348.2616.