Driving With Your Pet? How Fido Could Cause a Serious Accident


Many people’s first reaction when states began passing pet-restraint laws a few years ago was to roll their eyes. But the fact is, pets can be a major distraction to any driver and having them restrained in the back seat is likely far better than riding with them in your lap.

Georgia does not require motorists to restrain pets in vehicles. You are free to ride with your dog in your lap, leaning across you to put its head out the window or running back and forth from side to side in the backseat. Like phones, passengers, and in-vehicle movies, pets are a distraction and a potentially serious accident waiting to happen.

Is your pet a distraction?

No matter the size of your dog, if you ride with your furry companion in the car, the dog could be distracting you from the tasks at hand.

According to a survey from AAA and Kurgo, 65 percent of dog-owners who ride with their pets admit to petting, reaching for their dog, or taking their pictures while driving. When paired with the NHTSA statistic that tells us it only takes two seconds of unfocused driving to increase the risk of an accident, your dog could ultimately send you or someone else to the hospital.

In addition to causing a wreck, an animal becomes a dangerous projectile when a collision occurs.

AAA reports a 10-pound dog (like those little ones frequently found on drivers’ laps) can generate 500 pounds of force when unrestrained and involved in a crash at 50 mph. A larger 80-pound dog can generate 2,400 pounds of force in an accident at even lower speeds.

Most people recognize that their dog could be a distraction. According to that same survey, 83 percent of respondents agree that having an unrestrained dog in the car could be dangerous. Only 16 percent of dog owners use pet restraints when their dog rides with them and 56 percent admit to having their pet ride along at least once a month.

All of this data simply means:  drivers who ride with an unrestrained pet are at increased risk of being involved in an auto accident.

Pet restraints: How effective are they?

Currently, at least eight states have laws mandating a pet be restrained while riding in a motor vehicle. But even in states where this isn’t the case, carriers and harnesses might not be a bad idea.

As a recent report from WSB-TV Atlanta shows, not all pet restraints are created equal. While the makers of these safety tools market their products as potentially lifesaving for dogs and people alike, many of them fall short.

The restraints tested did serve to keep dogs away from drivers while the car was in motion—reducing the risk of a distracted driving accident. But many failed to protect the dog on impact. Crash tests sponsored by Subaru revealed the Sleepy Pod to test the best—both keeping the dog in one place and protecting him on impact.

For dog owners, and the people who share the road with them, restraining their beloved pet could be the best bet for not only preventing an accident, but also for keeping everyone (humans and animals alike) safe if an accident occurs.