Doggone Distracted Drivers! Why Driving With An Unrestrained Dog Is Dangerous

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Around 46 million U.S. households own at least one dog -- and about 56% of those dog owners have driven with their favorite pooch in their vehicle at least once in the past year (even if it is just to the vet and back for a yearly checkup). Many dog owners take their dogs everywhere with them -- and it's by no means unusual to see someone driving down the road with a dog in the car.

However, letting your pup roam freely in your car while you travel could be a recipe for disaster. Here is what you should consider before you put your furry buddy back in the car with you again.

Dogs make it harder not to be a distracted driver.

Distracted driving is a national problem. For the majority of people, that has to do with things like eating in the car while driving, trying to program the GPS while on the move or texting and talking on their cell phone. For dog owners, the dog could be the big distraction.

While only about 1/3 of dog owners will admit to being distracted by their dog while driving, owners are a little more forthcoming when questioned about specific activities. When questioned specifically, well over half (65%) of owners will admit to at least one behavior that shows that their minds aren't totally on the road. Activities include things like petting their dog (the top offender) and even taking photos of their pup while in motion!

Unrestrained dogs can actually cause an accident.

They do make safety restraints for dogs -- because normal seat belts aren't designed with dog safety in mind. However, the restraints aren't used by the vast majority of people who transport their dogs in the car.

A lot of drivers who allow their dogs to roam freely in their cars while traveling will admit to taking a hand off the wheel when braking to keep their dog from falling forward, while others admit that they've had to struggle to keep their dog in the back seat. Around 17% of drivers just give in and hold their dogs in their laps while they drive -- which is almost asking an accident to happen. If the dog slips off your lap and gets underfoot, you wouldn't be able to operate the pedals properly. If the dog suddenly jumps up on the wheel, you could have your vision obscured or your car could jolt into another lane.

Keep in mind that your dog isn't just at risk of causing an accident -- he or she could also get seriously hurt. It's estimated that a 10lb dog, traveling at only 30 miles an hour, would propel forward with 300 pounds of force in an accident. That's more than enough force to put your pup through a windshield, or worse.

For safety's sake, restrain your dog while driving and encourage others to do the same. If you happen to be in an accident caused by a driver who was distracted by their dog, consider consulting an auto accident attorney like Bangel, Bangel, & Bangel for advice on how to recover compensation for your injuries.