Why Driving With a Dog in Your Car Can Be Dangerous

by Staff | August 17th, 2020

In a study observing how well pet owners drove when their dogs were free to roam inside their vehicles, versus when they were kept in pet carriers, experts learned drivers were distracted more than twice as often when their dogs were unrestrained. They also displayed 649 unsafe driving behaviors over the course of the study when their dogs were unrestrained, compared to only 274 while the dogs were restrained.

It’s clear that unrestrained dogs in vehicles can be a serious driving hazard. But in what ways?

How Dogs Distract Drivers

CarRentals.com conducted a survey asking dog owners how their dogs distracted them while driving, and learned the greatest distraction created by our canine companions is sitting on drivers’ laps, closely followed by pawing at or nudging drivers while they’re behind the wheel.

When your dog sits in your lap, they can block your view of the road, jostle the steering wheel, and often require you to take a hand off the wheel to keep them calm or in place.

Dogs who grow anxious in the car will often distract drivers, even when they aren’t in the front seat, by crying and demanding attention, which also takes the drivers’ hands off the wheel, and likely their eyes off the road as well.

Other dangerous and distracting behavior dog owners cited in the CarRentals.com survey included blocking the view out the passenger side window, throwing up, standing on the center console, and stepping on the gear shifter, all of which can distract drivers or cause them to lose control of their vehicles.

Why You Should Keep Your Dog Restrained in the Car

According to a AAA survey on why drivers do not restrain their dogs in their cars, 39% said they never considered it, 29% said they didn’t think it was necessary for a short trip, 42% said they didn’t think it was necessary because their dog is calm in their car, and 12% said they wanted to let their dog put its head out the window.

Even when dogs are calm or it’s only a short trip, it’s still important to restrain your dog while they are in the car for their safety and your own. Even if you are not distracted by your dog, that doesn’t mean another driver on the road isn’t distracted by something.

In a crash, unrestrained dogs can become dangerous projectiles. At just 30 mph, a 10-pound dog will exert around 500 pounds of force when it goes flying, while an 80-pound dog will exert 2,400 pounds of force. Either is enough to seriously injure your dog and anyone else in the car.

Furthermore, dogs sitting in the front seat can be seriously injured or killed by the airbag if it deploys.

Dogs can also be injured by debris falling off other vehicles or kicked up by the tires of other vehicles when they stick their heads out the window. Some dogs may also jump out the window if given the opportunity, and they could be hit by another car or cause an accident by vehicles swerving to avoid them.

However, the AAA survey also found that drivers were three times more likely to use a pet restraint system in their car after learning how pets can injure themselves and others when unrestrained.

What is a Vehicle Pet Restraint System?

A pet restraint system is anything that prevents your dog from moving freely around the cabin of your vehicle, protecting them and you.

These could be:

  • A pet carrier or crate
  • A dog harness which can be attached to a seatbelt
  • A barrier placed between the front and back seats, or cargo area and rear seats

For the best protection, place pet carriers under a seat rather than on top, to prevent them from sliding off, and never in the front seat, to protect your pet in case the airbag deploys.

After an Accident, Call Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin

After a crash, whether it was caused by driver distraction or reckless driving, you will likely be left with a lot of bills, and you may be unable to earn a paycheck until you recover from your injuries.

At Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin, we help people who are injured in accidents through no fault of their own. When you hire us, we look at the evidence to prove the other driver was at fault, calculate your crash-related expenses, and fight to get you the maximum compensation possible, even when the insurance company tries to reduce or deny what you need to recover your damages.

Contact us today for a free case consultation.

Connect With Our Attorneys Now