Pets and Distracted Driving

With the holiday season right around the corner, many families are planning to visit their families and that, of course, means their four-legged family members, too. To ensure safe travels for everyone it’s important to take heed of a very real pet travel safety issue — pets and distracted driving.

When we think of distracted driving, typical "culprits" come to mind including: texting, eating, applying makeup, chatting on the phone, or even daydreaming. Seldom considered is the fact that traveling with an unsecured pet is a very real and dangerous distraction.

The American Automobile Association (AAA), in conjunction with Kurgo, conducted a survey of people who often drive with their pets. The survey showed that a whopping 64 percent of pet parents partake in unsafe distracted driving habits as they pertain to their pets. Additionally, 29 percent of respondents admitted to being distracted by their four-legged travel companions, yet 84 percent indicated that they do not secure their pets in their vehicle.

According to the survey, drivers were petting their dogs, putting them on their laps and giving them treats. Some drivers (three percent) even photographed their dogs while driving.

It’s pretty easy to understand how an unsecured pet can be a distraction while driving. Some pets may become anxious or excited, causing them to jump around or bark while in the vehicle. Additionally, a happy and loving pet may just want to be near you and crawl onto your lap while you’re driving.

Oftentimes, pets can be frightened and there is always an element of unpredictability with any animal. When looking for comfort dogs and cats may naturally opt to be near you and add to the possible perils caused by these distractions.

Properly securing your pet in your vehicle is not only about alleviating this potential driving distraction that could cause an accident. It is also a proactive approach should there be an accident or sudden stop — even a fender bender can injure an unsecured pet. We wear seatbelts for our safety in case of an accident and should take the same care to secure our pets.

A pet that is not restrained properly in a vehicle can be seriously harmed or even killed if thrown from a vehicle. Airbags can go off and injure a pet in your lap. In the event of an accident, frightened pets can easily escape from a vehicle and run off. Further, a pet that is not properly secured may not only be harmed but could also put others in danger through the shear force of any impact from an accident.

Ensuring your pet is safe while traveling in your vehicle means finding the pet safety restraint that is right for him. Options include pet seat belts, pet car seats, travel crates and vehicle pet barriers. Planning to have the right pet safety restraint for your trip will not only keep you and your pet safe but also offer you peace of mind and take one more distraction away.

Kim Salerno is the president andfounder of TripsWithPets.com. She founded the pet travel site in 2003 and is an expert in the field of pet travel.