Distracted driving was responsible for almost 5,800 deaths in 2009.  Cell phones were to blame for about 1050 of these deaths.  The rest were caused by other distractions. One driver distraction that has received little press attention is the presence of pets in the car. However, when causes were listed for distracted driving accidents, pets were near the top of the list.
 
A recent study from AAA finds that dogs in the car are a common form of driver distraction. Two-thirds of dog owners admit to petting, feeding, or playing with their dogs while driving. 
 
  • 55% of dog owners say that they pet their dog while driving
  • 21% have driven with a dog on their lap
  • 7% have given a dog food or water while navigating traffic
  • 5% have played with their pet while driving
 
Another important finding, only 17% of the pet owners surveyed use a pet-restraint system.  Just as children are restrained in car seats and adults in seat belts, pets need to be restrained to prevent harm to themselves and others.
 
Pets don't understand that driving is dangerous. Unrestrained pets can move around from seat to seat. They may try to get their owner's attention by barking or by climbing on the driver's lap.  They may knock into the gear shift, brakes or other controls.  But, perhaps the most important reason to keep your pet restrained is to prevent injury in the case of an accident.
 
If you are involved in a Missouri car accident, your unrestrained pet can become a dangerous projectile.  In a 30 m.p.h. collision, a 50 pound dog a pet may be thrown with 1,500 pounds of force.  This can cause critical injuries to your pet and to the other occupants of the car.  
 
Stay safe and keep your pet properly restrained while travelling.

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James Roswold
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James Roswold is a Kansas & Missouri personal injury, workers comp, and medical malpractice attorney.