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Distracted driving: are unrestrained pets more dangerous than texting or talking?

Hate restraining your pet while you’re driving? You might be putting its life in danger, not to mention your own. Feeding, petting, and playing with your pets while driving can be as dangerous as talking on a cell phone behind the wheel. Not to mention the fact that pets may cry or move around unexpectedly. Jennifer Huebner-Davidson, AAA National, Traffic Safety Programs manager says “Restraining your pet when driving can not only help protect your pet, but you and other passengers in your vehicle as well.”

Unrestrained pets pose distracted driving dangers

It’s not just a distracted driving issue: unrestrained pets can hamper rescue operations in severe accidents. An unrestrained 80-pound dog in a crash at only 30 mph exerts approximately 2400 pounds of force. Smaller animals are likely to be harmed or thrown from vehicles even in minor collisions. Pets in the front seat or on drivers’ laps can be crushed by the impact of an airbag. Pets may also disappear after an accident; trauma can induce shock and confusion, and animals often run away.

Studies say most drivers allow pets to ride unrestrained

Several studies indicate that even though drivers are aware of the distractions animals cause while driving, they still put their pets in the car.

In 2011, Kurgo, a manufacturer of pet travel products, and the AAA surveyed people who frequently drove with their pets. The survey found that 1 out of 3 dog owners admitted getting distracted by their dog while driving. 64 percent of drivers admitted to engaging in potentially distracting pet-related activities, and 29 percent admitted to being distracted by their pets. Also, a full 84 percent allowed their pets to ride unrestrained.

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The University of Alabama at Birmingham conducted a study of 2000 licensed drivers, aged 70 and older, including 691 pet owners. The study concluded that senior citizens driving with their pets are at a greater risk of possible vehicular collisions than those driving without one. Although 83 percent of the elderly surveyed believed that an unrestrained dog in a moving vehicle is dangerous, only 16 percent had used any kind of restraint on their pets.

Subaru comes to the rescue of pets in cars

The automaker Subaru has teamed up with the Center for Pet Safety to develop crash standards and pet restrainers that protect animals during accidents. Crash tests conducted on a 55 pound dummy dog exposed the inefficiencies of pet restraints during 30 mph impacts to which child seats are subjected.

Currently available on the market are pet crates, pet belts, pet barriers, pet seats, and front seat barriers. Drivers should remember to keep their pets in the back seat and properly restrain them by choosing products that suit their size and keep them comfortable.

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