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UNRESTRAINED DANGER: Pets in vehicles another serious form of distracted driving

June 19, 2014

When we hear the term "distracted driving," most of us think of the obvious culprits - eating, putting on makeup, talking on the phone, texting, or rummaging for a dropped object on the car floor. However, few of us consider the driving distraction leaving our furry friends unsecured can cause.

This fact is underscored by a Kurgo and AAA survey of people who frequently drive with their pets. The survey found that, while 64 percent of drivers admitted to engaging in a potentially distracting pet-related activity, and 29 percent admitted to actually being distracted by their pets, a full 84 percent allowed their pets to ride unrestrained.

It's easy to see how an unrestrained pet could be distracting. An anxious dog may cry uncontrollably, pace, or seek comfort from its owner. A dog or cat who becomes suddenly frightened might jump or run around unpredictably. A curious dog might burst into the front seat to get a better view of something interesting he spotted from the back window. A small dog or cat might try to burrow under your seat, or worse-into your lap.

In the survey, drivers admitted to doing everything from petting their dogs, carrying them on their laps, to playing with them and even giving them treats while driving. Three percent of drivers admitted to taking photos of their dogs as they drove.

Restraining pets in vehicles isn't just about pets causing distracted driving. It's about what can happen during an accident. Unrestrained pets can be seriously injured or killed if they are thrown from a vehicle. Pets carried on drivers' laps can be crushed by the impact of an airbag. Frightened pets have been known to escape vehicles and run away in shock after accidents. And unsecured pets can actually put everyone in the car in danger; during an accident, a 60-pound dog can suddenly become the equivalent of a 2,700-pound projectile.

Keeping your pet and human passengers safe and secure is as easy as using the right safety restraint. From pet seat belts or pet car seats, to crates or front seat pet barriers, there is an option out there that will suit your pet and your vehicle. Taking the time to find it may save you the hassle and danger of driving distracted. It may make trips with your pets more fun and worry-free. And it just may save the life your pet - or your own.

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